Poll shows Americans support gas tax to promote energy independence

News AASHTO Journal March 08, 2006
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A recent poll by the New York Times and CBS News reveals that, while most Americans would oppose a gasoline-tax increase for the usual purpose of highway construction, many would back such a tax increase if the proceeds were used to help the U.S. break its dependency on foreign oil or reduce global warming.

The nationwide telephone poll conducted Feb. 22-26, surveyed 1,018 adults. Of those, 85% opposed an increase in the tax if the proceeds were used for existing purposes only/ However, 55% said they would back such an increase if it lessened dependence on foreign oil, and 59% said they would support it if the end result was lowered gasoline consumption and a reduction in global warming.

The poll’s margin of error was plus or minus three percentage points. The federal gasoline tax was last increased in 1993, and now stands at 18.4 cents per gallon. There is no current proposal on the table to increase it for any of the purposes explored in the poll.

“If it was a tax that would sponsor research for fuel cells or alternative fuel sources, I could buy that,” said Rich Arnold, an instructor in criminal justice at Louisiana State University.

“If the tax is increased and oil companies reap the benefit, I would be against it,” said Lisa Fisher, a Chicago yoga instructor. “But if the tax money went to the development of electric cars, I would favor the higher tax. It is important we are not dependent on foreign oil,” she said.

Twenty-four percent of those polled said they would support a higher federal gasoline tax if the new revenue was used to help fight terrorism, and 28% would go along with a gasoline tax increase if, as an offset, their income taxes or payroll taxes were lowered. Betty Forde, 46, an administrator for the New York City Police Department, fell into this category.

“Taxes in general are very high,” she said. The Times reported that several economists believe raising the gas tax while lowering income-based taxes would be an efficient approach to reducing gasoline consumption.

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