Just Don’t Call it a Carbon Tax

Author Tomia, original image Polylerus, courtesy Wikipedia

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


A new study in Psychological Science [“A dirty word or a dirty world?” pdf] shows that Republicans and Independents would approve a “carbon offset” identical in every way to a “carbon tax” as long as it isn’t called a tax.

Democrats would vote for it either way.

Researchers at Columbia ran an experiment where volunteers—self-identified as Democrats, Republicans, or Independents—read about a program that would increase the cost of carbon-producing activities but whose proceeds would be used to pay for alternative energies or carbon capture and sequestration.

For half the volunteers this surcharge was labeled a “carbon offset.” The other saw it labeled as a “carbon tax.” Details were identical.

The participants then had to choose between purchasing two identical items, like airline tickets, only one cost more because it included the surcharge. Results:

  • If it was called an offset, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents tended to select the more expensive and environmentally-friendly product
  • All parties were also equally likely to support making the surcharge mandatory
  • If it was called a tax, Democrats opted for the costlier item but Republicans and Independents were more likely to choose the cheaper item
  • Republicans and Independents would not support legislation mandating a tax

Wow. Tax really is a four-letter word.

MOTHER JONES NEEDS YOUR HELP

Straight to the point: Donations have been concerningly slow for our hugely important First $500,000 fundraising campaign. We urgently need your help, and a lot of help, over the next few weeks so we can pay for the one-of-a-kind journalism you get from us.

Learn more in “Less Dreading, More Doing,” where we lay out this wild moment and how we can keep charging hard for you. And please help if you can: $5, $50, or $500—every gift from every person truly matters right now.

payment methods

MOTHER JONES NEEDS YOUR HELP

Straight to the point: Donations have been concerningly slow for our hugely important First $500,000 fundraising campaign. We urgently need your help, and a lot of help, over the next few weeks so we can pay for the one-of-a-kind journalism you get from us.

Learn more in “Less Dreading, More Doing,” where we lay out this wild moment and how we can keep charging hard for you. And please help if you can: $5, $50, or $500—every gift from every person truly matters right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate