The Public Policy Institute of California released its poll on Californians & the Environment and the poll indicated that residents and voters are definitely pro-environment. But, the poll included a surprise for those who followed the cap-and-trade debate.

Californians were asked if they supported cap-and-trade even if the process added 15-cents per gallon to gasoline. First, cap and trade had to be explained because more than half those asked had not heard about it.

Putting that thought aside, respondents favored cap and trade by 60% to 34% even with the additional cost. When the pollsters broke the answers down into categories based on Household Income, a surprise showed the greatest support came from those in the lowest category—those households that bring in under $40,000 a year. Respondents in that category were most strongly in support—65% in favor, 28% opposed.

Why the surprise? During the debate over cap and trade the argument made by many opponents to the program was that the poor would be most disadvantaged by paying more for their gasoline; they couldn’t afford the cost and they don’t support cap and trade. Yet, the poll seemed to indicate they were willing to pay the burden.

PPIC probably missed an edifying point by not following up with one or two more questions. While the question used the lowest amount of increase for a gallon of gas pegged by the Legislative Analyst’s Office—15-cents–what would the response have been if the highest figure were used in a question? Would 63-cents a gallon increase changed some votes?

Or what if the follow-up question pointed out that gasoline prices already have risen about 11-cents a gallon under cap and trade and will increase 12-cents a gallon when the gas tax kicks in? Would an additional 15-cents a gallon receive the same support in the lower household income category, or any category for that matter?

When you realize that 56% of the respondents did not know abou cap and trade before a brief summary, then undoubtedly more education on the issue and the cost would have altered the numbers.

The questions weren’t asked so we don’t know. Perhaps, we would be surprised by the answers to those questions as well.