Fast track or Slo-Mo? Public support and temporal preferences for phasing out fossil fuel cars in the United States

Item Type Journal paper

Policies to phase out fossil fuel cars are key to averting dangerous and irreversible changes to the earth’s climate. Given the potential impacts of such policies on every-day routines and behaviours, the factors that might increase or decrease their public acceptance require investigation. Here we study the role of specific policy design features in shaping Americans’ preferences for policy proposals to phase out fossil fuel cars. In light of the urgency of action against climate change, we are specifically interested in citizens’ preferences with respect to the timing of phase-out policies. Based on a demographically representative sample of 1,520 American residents rating 24,320 hypothetical policy scenarios in a conjoint experiment, we find that Americans prefer phase-out policies to be implemented no later than 2030. Policy features other than timing are also important: higher policy costs significantly reduce public support; subsidies for alternative technologies are preferred over taxes and bans; and policy co-benefits in terms of pollution reduction increase public support only when they are substantial. The study also investigates the role of individual characteristics in shaping policy preferences, finding that perceived psychological distance of climate change and party identification influence policy preferences. The results of this study have important implications for the political feasibility of rapid decarbonization initiatives like the ‘Green New Deal’ that are now being discussed in the US and beyond. Among these is the insight that smart sequencing of policies (early implementation of subsidies for low-emission technologies, followed by tax increases and/or bans) might help ensure majority support for a fossil fuel car phase-out.

Authors Rinscheid, Adrian; Pianta, Silvia & Weber, Elke U.
Journal or Publication Title Climate Policy
Language English
Subjects social sciences
political science
other research area
HSG Classification contribution to scientific community
Refereed Yes
Date 2020
Publisher Taylor & Francis
Volume 20
Number 1
Page Range 30-45
Publisher DOI 10.1080/14693062.2019.1677550
Official URL
Depositing User Dr. Adrian Rinscheid
Date Deposited 04 Dec 2019 14:25
Last Modified 31 Mar 2020 18:42


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Rinscheid, Adrian; Pianta, Silvia & Weber, Elke U. (2020) Fast track or Slo-Mo? Public support and temporal preferences for phasing out fossil fuel cars in the United States. Climate Policy, 20 (1). 30-45.

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