A fascinating new poll by the NY Times/CBS found that a majority of Americans are willing to support a gas tax increase if it will reduce our dependence on foreign oil or global warming. <http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/28/national/28gas.html?_r=1&oref=slogin The poll is quite clear. When asked straight up whether they would support a gas tax increase 85% were opposed. But when you asked then whether they would support a gas tax increase if it reduced our dependence on oil, 55% were supportive, and if it reduced global warming 59% were in favor.
The basic notion underpinning the poll results are simple: across the board, Americans are willing to pay taxes if they will result in measurable and valuable outcomes.
This is an aside, but I've often thought that a truly accountable government would issue each tax paying citizen a breakdown of how their taxes were spent. Everyone would get the same readout: 50% for defense, X for healthcare, etc and you could even go into a few more details--with a "results" section for each category. It would be an effective tool for getting people bought into the value of government. Obviously that isn't the modus operandus of the current system.
Anyway, back to the poll, which clearly shows that Americans believe that global warming and energy independence are serious priorities--worth paying to solve.
I was surprised that when the gas tax was linked to reducing global warming it gained more support (59%) than when tied to reducing our dependence on foreign oil (55%). The difference if probably close to the margin of error, but I would have thought that the latter would have blown the former out of the water.
Also interesting, if you look at the entire poll is that when revenue from the gas tax was used to fight the war on terrorism, 71% were opposed. I'm not sure if this suggests some fatigue with the war on terrorism (doubtful) or whether the public really makes a strong connection between a gas tax and global warming/foreign oil and wants to ensure that the money is dedicated to the right fight.
Either way, this is quite an encouraging sign that the public is on board and willing to put their money where their concerns are.