Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee Want Strong Fuel Economy Standards

There is overwhelming, bipartisan support for strong fuel economy standards in the Midwest auto manufacturing strongholds of Ohio, Indiana and Tennessee, according to recent surveys. Weakening the standards, on the other hand, would be very unpopular.

Across the three states, Democratics and Republicans support raising the fuel economy of new automobiles from 25 miles per gallon (mpg) to 40 mpg by 2025 in on-road driving. That’s consistent with the trajectory of clean car and fuel economy standards established in 2012 that required automobiles to achieve 54.5 mpg in laboratory treadmill tests.

These findings make it clear that the auto industry’s attempts to convince the Trump administration and Congress to roll back clean car and fuel economy standards translates into bad policy that’s unpopular with a majority of Americans in car country.

The support for strong standards in Ohio, Indiana and Tennessee mirrors recent findings from surveys in Michigan and Missouri. Each survey also found that very few respondents support weakening the standards. This is particularly notable considering that auto manufacturing employs so many people in these states. More than 150,000 workers across the five states comprise more than 50 percent of the 288,000 Americans manufacturing components and parts that make vehicles cleaner and more fuel efficient. Weakening the standards would put these jobs at risk.

The survey results, presented below, also make it clear that the public supports fuel efficiency standards because they help reduce pollution, safeguard our health and help protect the environment for future generations. 

Ohio Survey Highlights, Poll Conducted Jointly by American Viewpoint and Gerstein Bocian Agne (GBA) Strategies

There is widespread support for the upcoming increase in fuel efficiency standards in Ohio.

  • 73% of Ohioans favor the requirement that by 2025 all automobiles that are manufactured must get 40 mpg, on average.
  • Six-in-ten Republicans favor the 40 mpg requirement (61%-36%) and seven-of-ten independents (70%-24%).
  • Very few Ohioans want to weaken these standards. Only 22% of respondents believe that the 40 mpg requirement should be lowered.

After a balanced set of arguments which included arguments by opponents that it would increase consumer costs, respondents continue to overwhelmingly support the new standard.

  • Each respondent heard five arguments in favor of the new fuel standard and five arguments in opposition to them. After hearing these arguments, by a margin of 64%-31% respondents favor the 40 mpg standard.
  • The need for a clean and healthy environment for future generations is a compelling reason to support the new standards. More than 60% of respondents saw each supporting argument as convincing, with the health of future generations and reducing dependence on foreign oil the most compelling reasons to support the existing miles per gallon requirement.

Indiana Survey Highlights, Poll Conducted Jointly by Global Strategy Group and Public Opinion Strategies

  • Over two-thirds (68% favor/27% oppose) support continuing fuel efficiency standards requiring that cars manufactured in 2011 get an average of 25 mpg, with a planned increase to 40 mpg by 2025. Further, nearly half (47%) “strongly” favor continuing these standards.
  • Support for the standards remains robust (59% favor/35% oppose) even after a simulated back-and-forth debate on the issue, during which Indianans heard strong attacks from opponents of the standards that frame them as a partisan Obama policy that President Trump wants to reconsider and claim the standards will lead to job losses and higher car prices.
  • Majorities from each party support continuing existing fuel efficiency standards, including nearly nine in ten Democrats (88% favor/8% oppose), three-quarters of Independents (77%/19%), and just over half of Republicans (51%/43%).
  • After a simulated back-and-forth debate on the issue, Indianans overwhelmingly believe the standards will have a positive impact on air quality and public health in Indiana (65% positive impact/23% no impact/7% negative impact). Indianans are also 21 points more likely to believe the standards will have a positive impact on jobs and the economy in Indiana than a negative impact (46% positive/23% no impact/25% negative).

Tennessee Survey Highlights, Poll Conducted by North Star Opinion Research

  • 74% of Tennesseeans support requiring new cars to get 40 mpg by 2025, with 44% of Tennesseans “strongly” supporting the proposal. Moreover, this is a bipartisan issue, with support from solid majorities of Republicans (66%), independents (69%), and Democrats (90%).
  • There is virtually no support among Tennesseans for weakening these standards. 52% of Tennesseans say that standards should remain at the 40 mpg level, and 26% say they should be increased above that level. Just 15% say that the standards should be decreased from that level.
  • After hearing a balanced set of arguments on both sides of the issue, 70% of Tennesseeans remain in support of the proposal, including 59% of Republicans, 68% of independents, and 88% of Democrats.
  • Protecting public health and helping consumers through lower fuel costs are the most persuasive arguments in favor of strong fuel efficiency standards. Tennesseans like that strong fuel efficiency standards will improve the environment, lead to fewer bad air days, and benefit children. They are also persuaded by the argument that the higher standards will benefit consumers, who will save money at the gas pump.

These compelling survey results underscore the need to keep the strong 2025 standards in place. Attempts by the Trump Administration and automakers to weaken the standards are not supported by the public and would hurt jobs and the environment.

About the Authors

Luke Tonachel

Director, Clean Vehicles and Fuels Project, Energy & Transportation program

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