Americans support incentives for electric vehicles but are split on buying one themselves

A General Motors employee loads a Chevrolet Bolt EUV onto a factory production line in Lake Orion, Michigan, in July 2021. (Nic Antaya for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

US Senate Democrats have reportedly reached agreement on sweeping climate change legislation that would include tax credits for electric vehicles. A recent Pew Research Center survey — conducted before the potential Senate deal was announced — found that a large majority of American adults support offering incentives to increase the use of electric or hybrid vehicles.

At the same time, however, Americans are split on whether they would personally consider buying an electric vehicle the next time they buy a new car or truck, and a majority opposes eliminating of gasoline-powered vehicles in the years to come.

The Pew Research Center conducted this study to understand how Americans view climate, energy and environmental issues, including electric vehicles. We surveyed 10,282 American adults from May 2-8, 2022.

All of those who participated in the survey are members of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel recruited by random national sampling of residential addresses. In this way, almost all American adults have a chance of being selected. The survey is weighted to be representative of the adult US population by gender, race, ethnicity, party affiliation, education and other categories. Learn more about the ATP methodology.

Here are the questions used for this report, along with the answers, and its methodology.

A bar chart showing that two-thirds of Americans support incentives for hybrid and electric vehicles

Overall, two-thirds of Americans support incentives to increase the use of electric and hybrid vehicles. Democrats and independents who lean towards the Democratic Party are much more likely than Republicans and GOP supporters to say they favor incentives to increase electric vehicle use (84% vs. 46%).

Overall, the majority of Americans also support several other policies aimed at addressing climate change, including requiring power companies to use more energy from renewable sources.

But while Americans support incentives to increase electric vehicle use, they don’t know if they’d buy one the next time they buy a car or truck.

About four in ten Americans (42%) say they would be very or somewhat likely to seriously consider buying an electric vehicle the next time they look for a new car or truck. A slightly larger share (45%) say they would not be too or not at all likely to, while 13% say they don’t plan to buy a vehicle in the future.

The share of Americans who are very or somewhat likely to buy an electric car or truck is about the same as in April 2021. Since then, the price of gasoline has increased significantly, from an average of $2.95 per gallon in April 2021 to $4.55 in May 2022 – the month the new survey was conducted. Vehicle prices also rose amid broader inflationary pressures. Overall, Americans view electric vehicles as more expensive than gasoline-powered vehicles, according to a 2021 survey.

A bar graph showing that young adults are more likely than older adults to consider buying an electric vehicle

According to a recent Center survey, those most likely to consider buying an electric vehicle in the future are young adults, city dwellers, Democrats and those who already own a hybrid or all-electric vehicle.

A majority of 55% of adults aged 18-29 say they are very or somewhat likely to consider an electric vehicle the next time they buy a vehicle. Smaller proportions of adults aged 50 to 64 (34%) or 65 and over (31%) say the same.

People in urban areas (53%) are more likely than those in suburban (44%) and rural areas (27%) to say they are interested in buying an electric vehicle.

Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say they are at least somewhat likely to consider buying an electric vehicle the next time they buy a vehicle (58% vs. 23%). Young adults in each party are more likely than older adults to say this. About two-thirds (68%) of those who already own a hybrid or electric vehicle say they are very or somewhat likely to seriously consider buying an electric vehicle the next time they buy a new car or a new truck. Among those who do not own a hybrid or electric vehicle, 39% say so.

A bar chart showing that Americans who have considered buying electric vehicles cite environmental protection and fuel economy as the main reasons why

Among Americans who say they are at least somewhat likely to consider buying an electric vehicle, a large majority say that environmental protection (73%) and fuel savings (71% ) are the main reasons. They are much less likely to say that following the latest vehicle trends is a main reason they would be likely to buy an electric vehicle (10%).

Looking at current ownership rates, about one in ten American adults (9%) say they currently own an electric or hybrid vehicle, slightly above the 7% of Americans who said the same in April 2021.

As the ownership of hybrid and electric vehicles increases, the public opposes the phasing out of production of gasoline-powered vehicles.

Overall, 55% of American adults say they would oppose a proposal to phase out production of gas-powered cars and trucks by 2035, while 43% support the idea. Opposition today is slightly higher today than it was in April 2021, when 51% opposed and 47% favored the idea.

Democrats and Republicans (including those leaning towards each party) continue to be deeply divided on whether to end production of internal combustion engine cars and trucks. About two-thirds of Democrats (65%) favor phasing out gas-powered cars and trucks by 2035. In contrast, only 17% of Republicans support the idea, while 82% oppose it .

Among Democrats, a large majority of liberals (77%) support ending production of new gas-powered cars and trucks by 2035. Moderate and conservative Democrats are more divided: 55% favor the idea , while 44% oppose it.

The Biden administration has taken steps to ensure that electric vehicles represent half of all new cars sold in the United States by 2030. While these vehicles continue to represent a relatively small share of all car sales new, the global market for electric vehicles has seen growth over the past two years, and automakers like Ford Motor Co., General Motors and others continue to invest heavily in the technology.

Note: Here are the questions used for this report, along with the answers, and its methodology.

Alec Tyson is associate director of research at the Pew Research Center.

Alison Spencer is a research analyst specializing in science and social research at the Pew Research Center.

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