Worth Discussing

A Closer Look at Cap-and-Trade

by Ed Gillespie and Whit Ayres | Resurgent Republic | June 26, 2009

TO:        Interested Parties
FROM:   Ed Gillespie and Whit Ayres
DATE:    June 26, 2009
RE:        A Closer Look at Cap-and-Trade

Congressional Democrats are proceeding with cap-and-trade legislation, moving a bill that cuts against the sentiments of Independent voters as measured in an April nationwide survey by Resurgent Republic.

Independents have serious reservations about the urgent need to address climate change now if a cap-and-trade program resulted in loss of jobs, hurt the economy, or raised energy prices.

Opponents of such a regime should emphasize why these concerns are well founded.

Cap-and-trade proponents, however, have succeeded in convincing voters that their policies would lead to the creation of more green jobs at home.

There are four key points that are worth review in the cap-and-trade debate:

1. Cap-and-trade opponents connect with voters when challenging the urgency of placing climate change at the top of Congress’ to-do list.  By a margin of 55 to 41 percent, voters agree that there are more important issues that should be addressed ahead of climate change.  Independents are closer to Republicans in this view, with 56% in agreement that there are other more important issues versus 42% who feel climate change should be addressed now.

2. Presenting the costs of a cap-and-trade program – the potential loss of jobs and an added strain on an economy in recession – builds further opposition and connects with voters, especially with Independents.

Independents split from Democrats when asked which of the two messages below they support:

Candidate A says that climate change is so urgent that the United States must address it now.

Candidate B says that whatever the United States does about climate change should not be allowed to cost jobs or hurt the economy.

By a +22 margin (58 to 36 percent), voters agree with Candidate B over Candidate A.  Independents record an almost identical response, supporting Candidate B over Candidate A by a +23 margin (59 to 36 percent).  In a near complete reversal, and exposing a potential disconnect with Independent voters, Democrats favor Candidate A over Candidate B by a +17 margin (56 to 39 percent).  If opponents of cap-and-trade talk about its cost in terms of lost jobs and the adverse impact on the economy, the wedge between Independents and Democrats would likely increase.

3. Cap-and-trade proponents have a tough time justifying increasing energy prices in an already unstable economic environment.  By a margin of 48 to 39 percent, voters show an unwillingness to pay higher energy prices as a result of a cap-and- trade program.

Again Independents split from Democrats when asked which of the two messages they support:

Candidate A says adopting a cap-and-trade program would give companies financial incentives to cut energy use and rely more on alternative fuels.

Candidate B says adopting a cap-and-trade program during a recession would make the economy worse by raising taxes on utility bills, gasoline, and electricity at the worst possible time.

By a +17 margin in favor of Candidate B over Candidate A (52 to 35 percent), Independent voters agree that the potential harm from raising taxes on energy while the economy is in a recession far outweighs any potential incentives companies may receive to lower energy consumption and rely more on alternative fuels.

4. Opponents have work to do to counter the argument that more green jobs could be created as a result of cap-and-trade legislation.  Proponents have made some headway in communicating the potential benefit of creating additional green jobs at home (46 percent agree) in contrast to the argument that U.S. companies would be forced to ship jobs overseas as a result of higher manufacturing prices (39 percent agree).  Amongst Independents, however, the argument is diluted and the response is a near even split with 41 percent favoring more green jobs, while 40 percent remain concerned about losing U.S. jobs overseas.


This survey consists of 1000 registered voters chosen randomly from throughout the country through random-digit dialing of both landline and cell phones.  Calls were conducted April 13-16, 2009.  Calling quotas were established by state, urban area, age, race, and gender.  The sample is 4 points more Democratic than Republican: 29 percent Republican, 33 percent Democrat, and 35 percent Independent, 3 percent Refused.  The margin of error is 3.1 percent.

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Filed under: News and Cap And Trade