The other big news of the day is the Obama administration’s announcement of new fuel efficiency standards designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce our dependence on foreign oil:
The Obama administration announced strict new fuel-efficiency vehicle standards Tuesday, requiring the U.S. auto fleet to average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.
The new policy has the support of the auto industry and environmentalists alike — auto executives are claiming their customers want these standards. But Mitt Romney’s campaign is denouncing the new move as “extreme,” arguing that any savings at the pump will be offset by the costs of the new technology to consumers.
I’m not sure what the Romney campaign thinks is “extreme” about these new standards, so it isn’t easy to gauge whether the public agrees. But as luck would have it, the Post did a big poll with Kaiser not long ago that dug deeply into Americans’ attitudes towards government. And the question on this topic is instructive:
Do you think the federal government should or should not regulate the release of greenhouse gases from sources like power plants, cars and factories in an effort to reduce global warming?
Should be regulated: 73
Should not be regulated: 22
Independents favor regulation by 73-22; even Republicans favor it, 61-35. This gets even more interesting when you break this down into what the Post calls “political party clusters,” a more fine-grained way to look at opinion than the usual party I.D. breakdown offers. (This was possible because of the study’s unusually large sample size.)
It turns out that literally every ideological group, even within the GOP, favors this sort of regulation in large numbers, except for one: Tea Partyers.
Solid majorities of so-called “old school Republicans” (conservative but not overly ideological), Republican “religious values voters,” Republican “window shoppers”(who are more liberal), Republican “pro-government conservatives,” and Republican leaning independents all favor regulation. But only 36 percent of Tea Party members favor it, versus 61 percent who oppose it.
Public attitudes towards government are deeply conflicted, but this seems to be an exercise of federal power that has extremely broad public support, across virtually all ideological groups. And I wouldn’t completely discount the importance of energy and climate change in this election. While voters obviously see the economy as a far more important factor, the candidates’ differences on global warming could inform a more subtle contrast between the two men and the two parties, one that speaks to voter impressions of their overall visions for the future. This could matter to a pivotal group: upscale whites, particularly women. As Ron Brownstein notes, upscale white women are “socially liberal and open to activist government,” and could be key to Obama’s efforts to prevent Romney from capturing the record share of the white vote he may need to win.
At any rate, if these numbers are any indication, opposing standards like this is the extreme position.