Of Course This 'Highly Biased Poll' By Oil-Funded Koch Groups Claims that
Americans Don’t Like Electric Cars
June 4, 2019 Ben Jervey
[images / ucsusa.org
Which would you trust: a poll commissioned by a nonprofit philanthropic
group and conducted with academic partners, or a survey paid for by an
advocacy group with financial ties to the industry in question and conducted
by a for-profit lobbying firm with clients that are directly impacted by the
Two conflicting opinion polls concerning electric vehicles have just been
released, and — surprise! — the one tied to the oil refining billionaire
Koch brothers claims that American voters don’t support electric cars or the
electric vehicle (EV) tax credit.
Last month, a poll by Climate Nexus and academic partners at Yale University
and George Mason University showed that Democrats, Republicans, and
Independents all shared positive opinions of electric vehicles (EVs), and
that the federal EV tax credit made voters across all political parties more
likely to buy or lease a plug-in car.
A week later, an advocacy group led by a former Koch Industries lobbyist
released the results of its own electric car survey, which the group claimed
would show that American voters were opposed to the EV tax credit.
Why the conflicting reports? Consider the sources and the methodology. The
Climate Nexus poll was conducted using well-accepted and scientifically
sound polling methodology (which is described in the published materials).
The American Energy Alliance (AEA) survey, on the other hand, “is a highly
biased poll,”* according to Dr. Ed Maibach, a communications scientist and
professor at George Mason University who also worked with Climate Nexus on
their poll. “The questions have been purposefully designed to get the
response that the pollster — or more correctly, the pollster’s client —
wants,” Maibach told DeSmog.
Consider this example, where the question exaggerates California’s
percentage of the electric car market and intentionally biases the results
by presenting the tax credit as unfair to Coloradans.
First, the population of California (the most populous state, with nearly 40
million people) is roughly seven times higher than Colorado (with almost 5.7
Second, drivers in Colorado have the same access to the EV tax credit as
drivers in California or any other state; that California drivers choose to
take advantage of the credit more often is largely irrelevant.
Or consider this question, which entirely misrepresents how the tax credits
General Motors would only indirectly benefit from the EV tax credit, as only
the party purchasing the vehicle is able to claim the tax incentive.
With very few exceptions, the questions asked in this survey were clearly
designed to generate desired responses, intentionally skewing public opinion
of electric car incentives to support the AEA’s campaign to kill the EV tax
“The proper place for these poll results is the trash bin,” said Maibach.
American Energy Alliance and MWR Strategies: Biased Advocates Pretending to
Conduct Nonpartisan Polling
The deceit here is unsurprising when you consider who is behind the anti-EV
poll, and that last year around this time, the AEA did essentially the same
thing — releasing results of a survey that misrepresented public support for
clean car standards and electric vehicles.
The group that commissioned the survey, the AEA, is a self-described
“advocacy” organization, which according to its website, “engages in
grassroots public policy advocacy and debate concerning energy and
The president of AEA, Tom Pyle, has a long history of working with and for
the Koch brothers and Koch Industries. He was the top lobbyist at Koch
Industries, and then later as a private lobbyist, he lobbied on behalf of
Koch Industries and the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (now
the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers), of which Koch Industries
is a core member and beneficiary.
The poll itself was conducted by long-time energy lobbyist Mike McKenna for
MWR Strategies, a lobbying firm with clients including Koch Industries and
the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers. As Mark Renburke reported
here on DeSmog last year, McKenna was forced out of Virginia politics during
an ethics scandal of his creation, before eventually leading President
Trump’s energy transition team before choosing to resign rather than
de-register as a lobbyist. Coincidentally, McKenna was replaced as the head
of the energy transition team by Pyle.
The AEA is a central player in the Koch-funded campaign to kill the EV tax
credit and suppress sales of electric cars. Under Pyle’s watch, the group
has coordinated a number of letters to Congress opposing the tax credit, and
consistently pushes deceptive talking points to mislead the public and
policymakers on the economic and environmental benefits of electric cars.
The survey AEA released last year was cited in a number of op-eds and
commentaries as “evidence” that American voters didn’t want the tax credit
to be extended. This newly released survey seems positioned to be a similar
citation to back misleading arguments as Congress considers extending and
reforming the tax incentive.
Actually, Americans Like the EV Tax Credit
There is substantial evidence, however, that American voters actually
support the EV tax credit and that it is serving its purpose in helping spur
the adoption of plug-in cars. The recently released Climate Nexus poll found
that 77 percent of American voters have a positive opinion of electric cars
(including seven out of every 10 self-identified Republican voters), and
that a $7,500 tax incentive would make it more likely for nearly
three-quarters of American voters overall (and 71 percent of Republican
voters) to purchase an electric vehicle.
Another poll conducted last year by Autolist, a car sales platform, found
broad support for preserving and extending the federal incentives. Of the
drivers and car shoppers surveyed, 74 percent said that the tax credit would
affect their decision to buy an electric car, and one-third of respondents
said that the 200,000 vehicle cap on the tax credit should be lifted
A full 63 percent of consumers in the Autolist survey said that the $7,500
tax credit was important to support electric car adoption in the United
The Koch network is paying for deceptive talking points in a likely attempt
to preserve its oil refining fortunes, but it hasn't succeeded in buying
American public opinion. Legitimate opinion polls show the vast majority of
Americans favor the electric car tax credit.
*Update 6/4/19: This story has been corrected to note that the AEA survey
was not technically a “push poll” (as originally stated), which is a phrase
used to describe polling practices where the intent is to change voters'
minds, and not simply influence the results.
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