Poll: Californians Support Carbon Cap and Trade

August, 2012 fire at Chevron's refinery in Richmond, California, one of the state's largest greenhouse gas emitters | Photo: Michael Moore/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Californians support the state's new cap and trade system of auctioning greenhouse gas emission permits by a margin of two to one, according to a poll released today -- including a majority of Republicans.

The poll, conducted by USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the Los Angeles Times, found that 63% of Californian respondents favor the policy, which requires the state's largest emitters of greenhouse gases to either cut their emissions or buy emissions allowances at auction. Passed as the key measure of the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, the emission allowances auction went into effect this week.

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32% of those surveyed opposed the cap and trade law, agreeing with the pollsters' statement that the plan is "a job-killing energy tax that will stifle economic growth."

Unsurprisingly enough, support for cap and trade broke down along party affiliation lines. 72% of respondents identifying themselves as registered Democrats supported the law, where just 54% of Republicans did. 68% of respondents identifying themselves as "Decline To State" voters support cap and trade.

"Even as the debate continues over the economic impact of the state's new cap and trade rules, California voters seem to have made up their minds that they can have stronger environmental protections without sacrificing economic growth," said Dan Schnur, director of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll and director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at USC. "The challenge for the state's business community is convincing Californians that cap-and-trade will cause significant harm to the economy, but it's clear from these poll results that they have a steep uphill fight."

As ReWire mentioned in coverage of the auction earlier this week, the cap and trade law has been somewhat belatedly challenged in court by the California Chamber of Commerce, which charges that by selling emissions allowances, the California Air Resources Board has established an illegal tax. According to state law, tax increases must be approved by two-thirds of the state's Legislature.

Some legal minds have conjectured that as the Chamber's argument rests on the allegation that payment for emissions of greenhouse gases, which can be avoided by reducing emissions, don't constitute a tax in any real sense of the word. But even taking the Chamber's argument at face value, the USC/LA Times poll indicates that the California electorate -- which just handed Democrats a supermajority in both houses of the Legislature -- may be pretty easy to persuade to vote in favor of cap and trade.

The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll is a series of statewide public opinion polls in California on a range of issues.

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