Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

Cap & Trade: Few Know What it is but Half Support the Idea

As President Obama and Congress prepare to tackle energy legislation, most Americans are not sure what a so-called “cap and trade” program is. In a Pew Research News IQ Quiz , less than a quarter (23%) of the public was able to identify cap and trade legislation as dealing with energy and the environment (11% said it dealt with health care, 13% banking reform and roughly half admitted they did not know). Not surprisingly, in a different Pew Research survey, just 14% said they had heard a lot about cap and trade; a majority reported hearing nothing at all. However, when such a program is described to Americans, it receives support. Half of the public favors setting limits on carbon dioxide emissions and making companies pay for their emissions, even if it may mean higher energy prices, while 39% are opposed and 11% unsure. Among those who have heard a lot about the policy, opposition to the program runs two-to-one (Republicans are more likely to have heard about cap and trade than Democrats). But political divisions are not that severe on this issue. Conservative Republicans are the only political group in which a majority opposes setting limits on carbon dioxide emissions (60%). Meanwhile, political independents as well as both moderate Republicans and Democrats roughly mirror the country as a whole in support of capping carbon dioxide. One wide divide on cap and trade is among regions of the country. While those on the Pacific coast (62%) and Northeast (56%) favor a cap and trade program, Americans in the South (46%), Midwest (44%) and Mountain West (42%) are far less supportive. Read More