Public Policy Institute of California’s extensive polling on the environment turned up solid support from likely voters for the state to take a leading roll in confronting climate change. But when asked if they were willing to pay, the answers were mixed.

The poll found likely voters liked the idea (by 61% to 37%) of the state making its own policies separate from the federal government to address global warming. The numbers dropped somewhat but the gap of approval over disapproval remained when the voters were asked if California should take a leading role around the world on global warming, 49% to 22%.

When asked if gasoline prices would increase if the state pursued efforts to reduce global warming, overwhelming likely voters said yes, 60% to 11%. That opinion crossed all lines, party, ideology and regions of the state in similar large numbers.

But when the PPIC pollsters asked if the voters would be willing to pay more for electricity if it were produced by renewable energy like solar and wind, the response was not as overwhelming.

While 50% of likely voters said they were willing to pay for more costly electricity, 47% said no. The only regions of the state indicated a strong willingness to pay more was the San Francisco Bay Area (64% to 34%) and the North Central Cost (63% to 36%.) These contain some of the richest areas of the state where people can more easily handle a cost increase. 

The voters favored the cap-and-trade system in which businesses pay for permits to deal with greenhouse gases by 51% to 35%. Likewise they were sold on the idea of encouraging local governments to change land use policies so that people would drive less (65% to 29%) and for automakers to be required to reduce emissions for greenhouse gases (76% to 22%.)

What stands out from all this data is the uncertainty of how deep voters are willing to dip into their pockets to support an offensive in the war on climate change although voters show support for California’s laws (starting with AB 32) aimed at reducing greenhouse gases.

Clearly, the voters expect to pay more if the question on gasoline is an indication. But when they are directly asked about paying more there is hesitation as indicated by the split vote on willingness to pay.

Not a surprise since voters time and again approve of certain steps to deal with a problem if someone else has to pay for it.