Many Americans are skeptical of electric cars

A majority of American adults say they don’t own — and won’t consider buying — an electric car, and many doubt that electric cars are more efficient or better for the environment than traditional gas-powered cars.

The Economist / YouGov poll conducted March 24 – 26, 2024 asked 1,594 Americans about climate change, electric vehicles and the EPA’s new emissions standards that will push automakers to produce more emission-free vehicles low.

The survey found considerable skepticism about electric cars among much of the American public and limited direct experience with the technology. Only 4% of Americans have ever owned an electric vehicle, compared to 8% who have owned a hybrid vehicle and 83% who have owned a gas-powered vehicle.

Even among the 61% of Americans who believe “the world’s climate is changing as a result of human activity,” only 58% say they would consider buying an electric car or have already bought one. Among Americans who do not believe human-caused climate change is happening, less than 20% say they own or would consider owning an electric car.

While electric car ownership is low across all age groups, younger adults are more likely than older adults to say they would consider buying one (53% among those under 30 vs. 24% of those 65 years and older).

Many Republicans doubt the claimed benefits of electric vehicles

Most Democrats (58%) have not owned an electric car but would consider buying one; 6% own one now and 2% have in the past. 32% of Democrats say they have never owned an electric car and would not consider buying one.

In contrast, 14% of Republicans say they have not owned an electric car but would consider buying one; 2% either own one now or have owned one in the past. 83% of Republicans have never owned an electric car and would not consider buying one.

This Republican skepticism about electric cars extends beyond considerations of personal finance. Many Republicans are skeptical of many of the claimed benefits of electric vehicles compared to traditional gas-powered vehicles.

For example, most Democrats say that electric vehicles are better for the environment than gas-powered vehicles (70% to 7%) and that electric vehicles are more energy efficient than gas-powered vehicles (68% to 7%). But more Republicans say gas vehicles are better for the environment (36%, compared to 21% who say electric vehicles) and more energy efficient (42% say gas vehicles, 22% say electric).

Democrats and Republicans are more likely to say that gas vehicles are more affordable to maintain and more reliable than electric vehicles.

The EPA’s proposed new auto emissions standards, which require automakers to produce more vehicles with low carbon dioxide emissions, are drawing a mixed response from American adults. 44% of Americans say they strongly or somewhat support these standards, while 41% oppose them.

Democrats, younger Americans and college graduates are more likely to support emissions standards, while Republicans, older Americans and those without a college degree are less likely.

Carl Bialik contributed to this article

LOOK main lines AND Intersections from Economist/YouGov survey conducted March 24 – 26, 2024 among 1,594 US adults.

Methodology: Respondents were selected from YouGov’s electoral panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted by gender, age, race, education, participation in the 2020 election, and voting presidential, basic party identification and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Base party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given before November 1, 2022, and is weighted by the distribution estimated at that time (33% Democrat, 31% Republican). The margin of error for the total sample is approximately 3%.

Image: Getty

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