Politics be damned: Electric cars aren’t really so polarizing

The White House, Washington, D.C. [Creative Commons license by dcjohn]

In these days when the political dividing lines can seem insurmountable, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents have something in common: Regardless of their political affiliation, a majority say that they view electric vehicles positively.

A new survey from Climate Nexus has found that 77 percent—a strong majority—views EVs positively. That’s true across demographic groups, and includes 84 percent of Democrats, 75 percent of Independents, and 70 percent of Republicans.

The survey results also highlight that the differences in opinion about electric vehicles across the real-world aisle aren’t as pronounced as might be suggested by “ICEing” incidents, pushback you might see against charging-infrastructure spending, or what the President says.

EVs and political affiliation – Climate Nexus, May 2019

Climate Nexus found that 27 percent of Democrats and 16 percent of Republicans were “very positive” about electric vehicles. Just 3 percent of Democrats and 6 percent of Republicans reported being “very negative” about EVs.

More than a decade ago, the topic of electric cars was practically apolitical—in the sense that a move toward EVs was seen as something that would lessen our dependence on foreign oil and improve our energy security, something that appealed to all stripes. But that had already changed in a profound way by 2012, when Presidential candidate Mitt Romney was seen as towing a party line when he called Tesla a “loser” and criticized DOE grants made during the Obama Presidency.

2012 Republican National Convention

Another thing that’s popular across political lines, the survey found, is the idea of a guaranteed federal tax credit. About 78 percent of Democrats support that, with Independents and Republicans not far behind and both at 71 percent—something that Republican Senators must have realized in fall 2018 when they rallied to kill the federal EV tax credit and then quietly dropped the issue.

Across political lines, 44 percent would be likely to consider an EV the next time they’re looking to buy or lease a car, the survey says.

EV tax credit support – Climate Nexus, May 2019

The study was done in partnership with Yale University’s Program on Climate Change Communication and George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication. It was conducted on April 16-17, 2019 and includes the responses of 1,939 U.S. registered voters. Climate Nexus is in itself a non-profit project sponsored by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

So what is this idea that electric cars are an us vs. them (or red state vs. blue state) issue? Is it created by media? Where are the real dividing lines today?

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