Six in 10 Maryland voters oppose a plan to end the sale of gas-powered vehicles in the state in 12 years.
Gov. Wes Moore (D) announced this year that the state would recommit to aggressive climate goals involving the sales of electric vehicles. A poll released by Annapolis-based Gonzales Research & Media Service found a majority of voters oppose the plan even if it meant significant reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. The opposition increases when those surveyed were asked to factor in the higher cost of purchasing an electric vehicle.
“People will say well, which is it? It’s both. It’s life. That’s how life works,” said pollster Patrick Gonzales, adding that Moore’s policy “is a question that is going to be debated for years.”
The messaging of an environmental benefit lands well with Democrats, especially those who identify themselves as progressives. Even so, the poll shows Democrats are not immune to pocketbook pressures and will factor those concerns into their decisions.
The poll of 841 voters registered in Maryland who said they were likely to vote in the 2024 general election was conducted between May 30 and June 6. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 points.
The firm released the results of one question in the two-part poll to Maryland Matters ahead of the release of all results later this week. The other parts of the poll will measure voters’ approval of President Joe Biden and Moore, the direction of Maryland and the country, and several other state issues.
In March, Moore announced the state would require all new car sales be electric vehicles by 2035.
The decision is expected to result in nearly 1.7 million fewer gas-powered cars and trucks sold in Maryland by that year. The projected decrease in greenhouse emissions could result in health benefits. An analysis by the Maryland Department of the Environment estimates the potential value of decreases in respiratory and cardiovascular illness and associated lost workdays at nearly $40 million annually.
Moore’s announcement followed a similar decision made by California regulators in August.
Voters surveyed by Gonzales were first asked if they supported Moore’s announcement.
Thirty-seven percent of respondents said they supported the decision. Of those 14% were in strong support and another 23% said they somewhat support it.
Sixty-one percent said they opposed the plan, including 50% who were strongly opposed.
About two-thirds of independents joined 95% of Republicans in opposition to the ban. Roughly 55% of Democrats said they favored the change.
“It really shows to me that distinction between Democrats and Republicans and, as is so often the case in Maryland, the independents kind of come in and it’s decided based on which way they’re leaning,” said Gonzales.
All those surveyed were asked two additional questions gauging support based on environmental and economic factors. The order of the questions was rotated for each person surveyed, according to Gonzales.
A majority of those surveyed, 54%, said they oppose the decision even if it meant a significant reduction in carbon dioxide emissions; 44% said they would support it.
Among those who said they would support it based on reduced emissions, 31% said they were in strong favor of it — an increase of 17 points.
“That dramatic increase in the strong support, most of that is coming from those who said they ‘somewhat support’ right out of the gate,” said Gonzales. You’re not taking diehard opponents and turning them into supporters.”
When asked to factor in the cost of Moore’s decision, 68% said they would oppose its implementation by 2035.
Gas-powered vehicles remain cheaper to buy than the electric alternative.
Consumers on average paid $49.507 for a new vehicle at the end of 2022. The upfront cost of an electric vehicle is decreasing. The average cost of a new electric vehicle was more than $61,400 during the same period, according to Kelley Blue Book.
When asked to factor in an increased cost, 29% of those surveyed said they support Moore’s announcement. The number of those in strong support fell to 10%.
Meanwhile, 68% said they would oppose it when costs are factored in. That includes 55% of Democrats and 72% of independents — increases of 12 and 7 points respectively among those voters who said they would oppose the plan before being asked about greenhouse gas emissions or costs.
Gonzales said Maryland voters tend to be more progressive-leaning until it affects their personal finances.
“I think that’s part of it,” said Gonzales, adding that electric vehicles still have not matched their gas-powered counterparts in many ways.
Gonzales said he believes concerns about range and cost will lessen as technologies improve.
“It’s such a big leap to suggest we’re going to ban gas cars at this point, because we don’t have any viable alternatives,” said Gonzales. “If electric cars could get increased range without needing a charge and the price came down, then you know, all of a sudden you’re in.”