Politics & Government

Polling shows some public support for taxing carbon pollution in Washington

Recent polling for interest groups shows there is some voter support for government actions that reduce carbon-fuel emissions in Washington state to combat climate change.

One statewide business poll conducted by G Squared Strategies found nearly 54 percent support a carbon tax if it is offset by lower sales taxes and lower taxes on business. The same poll said 53 percent of voters want to keep the state gas tax at current levels.

Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday outlined a plan to pay for roads that would levy a pollution penalty on emitters, which could add 12 cents to the cost of a gallon of gasoline if costs are passed on by refineries and fuel suppliers.

The polling was done before the governor’s announcements on transportation or on his cap-and-trade proposal the following day. The G Squared Strategies survey also found 51 percent of voters backed a California-style cap and trade system of carbon-pollution credits and more than 54 percent supported shipping coal and oil through the state on railways.

The poll results were released Dec. 12 during an event that G Squared Strategies — itself a partnership of Gallatin Public Affairs in Seattle and GS Strategy Group — co-sponsored with the Downtown Seattle Association and other business organizations around the state. It surveyed 400 likely voters from Nov. 30-Dec. 2 and had an error margin of 4.9 percent.

Separate polling done by Bellevue-based GMA Research for the National Federation of Independent Business found concerns about the way Inslee might pursue a carbon fuels standard — although the polling came before any such proposal was made. GMA’s survey — based on a poll of 250 small business owners and 250 voters — found low public awareness that proposals to deal with climate change were in the works. It also found 78 percent of polled business owners and 66 percent of voters want to wait until the impacts of California’s standard are seen before Washington takes a similar step that could raise fuel prices.

That poll also said more than two-thirds of business owners and voters want any such proposal voted on statewide, while 25 percent of small businesses and 20 percent of voters wanted the Legislature to act. The poll was done during unspecified dates in November and early December and had an error margin of 6 percent. And it found more support for fuel-efficiency standards, development of renewable energy sources, and increased public transportation or carpooling than for policies that require less carbon-intensive fuels and might raise gasoline prices.

A third poll conducted by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (FM3) of California found nearly two-thirds of Washington voters back the idea of enforcing current limits on carbon emissions that are written in state law. That poll, which surveyed 600 registered voters from Sept. 24-30, found 40 percent strongly supported “taking steps to enforce existing targets in state law” and 23 percent somewhat supported such unspecified actions, while 30 percent were opposed.

Inslee and his 2013 legislative task force found the state is going to fall short of meeting emission reduction goals by 2020 or 2035 unless it takes major action.

The FM3 poll memo said 45 percent also agreed global warming is a “very serious” problem.

A fourth poll released by A Renewable America, a project of the Wind Energy Foundation, said two-thirds of Washington voters think an increase in renewable energy creates jobs. The poll was done by the Winston Group; a poll report says 750 voters were questioned during Nov. 21-23; the error margin was reported at 3.6 percent.

Inslee, a Democrat, campaigned in 2012 on climate action and closing tax loopholes to pay for public schools. More recently he’s pointed to carbon taxes as a solution to both school funding and transportation funding.