What Vermonters Actually Think About Climate Change

In the third batch of poll results released by CFV (see below), we discover Vermonters thoughts and feelings around climate change and the efforts of the state to address our obligations to the environment. While two-thirds of Vermonters support the goals of the Paris Climate Accord and carbon-neutrality, most are not willing to shoulder any additional financial burden to meet those goals. Further, specific policies the Legislature is advancing do not hold up well to public opinion.

Missed Part 1 or Part 2 of this poll? Check them out now for some helpful context.

We were intentional about asking poll respondents for their feelings about specific climate change targets, in this case carbon-neutrality. This grounds people's support to something specific, which is a carbon reduction target. Overall, two-thirds of Vermonters support this target, but we see nearly universal support from Democrats and significant opposition from Republicans. We also see outsized support in Chittenden and Washington Counties as well as college educated respondents. Male respondents and Rutland County showed less support for this goal.

When asked how much they were willing to pay in increased taxes to meet the Paris Accord targets, most (50%) did not want to pay anything extra. And, virtually no one (3%) was willing to pay more than an additional $100 per year. Interestingly, this did not vary much by income bracket but people over 55 and women were more likely to be willing to pitch in than others.

Getting into specific policies, we asked about support for policies contained in the Clean Heat Standard legislation passed last year. Less than a third of respondents approved of the concept and two-thirds actively disapproved of it. In fact, a majority of Vermonters (52%) strongly disapproved of the policy. Democrats showed a slight majority in favor while Republicans were nearly universally opposed. College educated respondents and women showed slightly less opposition to the policy.

To further measure the depth of support for the Clean Heat Standard, we asked how much of a surcharge people were willing to pay on heating fuels to support the clean energy transition. The vast majority (58%) were not willing to pay anything extra, but among those that were, only 6% were willing to pay more than a 5% surcharge. Again we see some regional and partisan differences here.

We also asked about a carbon tax on transportation fuels, the central policy of the Vermont Climate Council. Vermonters had an even stronger negative opinion of this policy with 71% opposed and 63% unwilling to spend any increased tax or fee to support it. It's clear why, we asked a follow up question about whether such a tax would disproportionately hurt low and middle-income families and 91% agreed that it would. Even Democrats, who generally are supportive of carbon taxes, agreed nearly universally with this statement.

Moving past these recent policy initiatives by the legislature, we asked a more generic question about whether Vermonters would support financial incentives to switch to electric vehicles, heat pumps, and clean energy systems with existing tax revenues (aka no new or increased taxes). Again, we see support jump right back to a two-thirds majority, matching the support for the overall goal of carbon-neutrality.

Perhaps the most telling result in this section of the poll, however, was revealed when we asked about what the state's priorities should be. In the context of the threats to our climate and environment and ongoing efforts to reduce carbon (including the Paris Accords) we asked Vermonters if the state should focus our efforts on carbon-reduction or climate change mitigation. Overwhelmingly (72%), respondents identified mitigation as the key policy area to focus on. This is a somewhat shocking finding because state leaders have devoted little to no effort in this area. What is also telling here is that more respondents were unsure of which was the best path forward (16%) than thought pursuing carbon-reduction (12%) was the right policy. The only differences in responses we saw here were along partisan lines with Democrats being twice as likely to pick carbon-reduction as the average Vermonter and Republicans being half as likely. Otherwise these results cut across every other major demographic.


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Updated 12/11/2023 @ 7:20am

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