The group 40 MPG (a project of the Civil Society Institute) sends out regular surveys to gauge public perception about the future of gas prices. Last May, for example, 40 MPG and CSI found that 72 percent of Americans were expecting $3.50 gallons of gas on the way (which didn't happen). This week, the group finds a similar percentage (71) are expecting even worse prices - $4 a gallon - in summer 2008 and that 48 percent expect prices over $4 by the middle of this year. Whether or not those prices come, 40 MPG and CSI say that over half of Americans worry more about high gas prices than recession, the mortgage problems and unemployment. You can read about the details and the methodology of the study in the press release after the jump.

The survey - which asked Americans about all sorts of energy issues - found that most people don't think the federal government is doing enough to reduce oil dependency and that where candidates stand on "gasoline prices, home heating oil prices, global warming and energy independence" will affect how people will vote in this fall's election.

Related:
[Source: Civil Society Institute, Newton, Mass.; 40MPG.org, Washington, DC]


Gas Prices and 2008 Leadership Survey: 71 Percent Expect $4 Gas This Summer, Bigger Fear For Public Than Recession, Mortgage Meltdown and Joblessness

Dissatisfaction With Washington Steps to Date on Energy and Climate a Clear Theme in Findings; $4 or Higher Gas Would Mean Big Boost for Gas-Sipping Cars, Cuts in 2008 Spending and Travel

WASHINGTON, Jan. 30 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Gas prices this summer reaching $4 a gallon are expected by 71 percent of Americans, of whom more than half (51 percent) cite fuel prices as their #1 economic worry for 2008, ahead of fears of recession, the mortgage foreclosure meltdown and the prospect of more joblessness.

A scientific national survey of 1001 Americans conducted for the nonprofit and nonpartisan Civil Society Institute (CSI) think tank and its 40MPG.org project also found that what presidential and congressional candidates say about energy issues could have a big impact on the outcome of the 2008 elections. Nearly nine out of 10 Americans (89 percent) - including 95 percent of Democrats and 84 percent of both Republicans and Independents - say that "the views of candidates on energy-related issues -- such as gasoline prices, home heating oil prices, global warming and energy independence" will be an important factor in how they vote.

Other key findings of the new CSI/40MPG.org survey include: Over four out of five Americans (84 percent) - including 91 percent of Democrats, 80 percent of Independents and 76 percent of Republicans -- do not "think the federal government is doing enough about high energy prices and the U.S. dependence on Middle Eastern energy sources"; nearly half of Americans (49 percent) are "not satisfied" that "Congress did everything it could to improve fuel-efficiency rules for U.S. automakers" in recently increasing federal mile-per-gallon standards; over four out of five Americans (84 percent) think "big oil companies are currently gouging consumers at the gas pump"; and about four out of five Americans (79 percent) would support "a tax on the windfall profits of oil companies if the resulting revenues were spent" for "research on alternative energy."

Civil Society Institute President and Founder Pam Solo: "Americans are clearly expecting more bad news in terms of energy prices and they are not satisfied that elected official have done everything they can to deal with the intertwined issues of U.S. energy security and addressing global warming. Americans are looking for leadership on energy and climate issues, they understand the complex problems ahead and they want their leaders to lead and produce tangible results and they seem ready to deliver that message in the fall."

40MPG.org spokesperson Ailis Aaron Wolf said: "These survey findings suggest that $4-a-gallon gasoline could be a real tipping point for the public in terms of an even bigger rush for hybrids, clean diesels and other highly fuel-efficient vehicles. It is interesting to note in particular that young people who have been raised in a 'high-cost fuel environment' over the last decade are overwhelmingly inclined to abandon gas guzzlers in favorite of gas-sipping, climate-friendly vehicles."

Opinion Research Corporation Senior Researcher Graham Hueber said: "Gas prices rising to $4 or higher will further tighten the wobbly U.S. economy. Over half of Americans (52 percent) said that gas prices at $4 would cause them to 'cut back on ... summer or end-of-year holiday travel' and nearly three out of five (58 percent) say they would 'cut back on your personal spending to help pay for higher gasoline prices.' Interestingly, Republicans (63 percent) were the most likely to cut back on personal spending at the $4-a-gallon gasoline level, compared to 57 percent of Democrats and 49 percent of Independents. If gasoline rises over $4 a gallon, nearly three out of five Americans (58 percent) will cut back on travel plans, while 63 percent will pull back on their personal spending."

SURVEY FINDINGS

The detailed findings of the Civil Society Institute/40MPG.org survey include the following:

-- In addition to 71 percent of Americans expecting gasoline prices to reach $4 a gallon this summer, nearly half (48 percent) expect gas prices to exceed $4 a gallon by mid-year.

-- High energy prices top recession fears and the mortgage foreclosure crisis as American's most often-cited economic problem in 2008. More than half of Americans cited "rising gasoline and home heating oil prices" (51 percent), followed by the recession/economic slowdown (47 percent), the mortgage crisis/falling home prices (31 percent), higher inflation (21 percent), and an increase in joblessness (18 percent). Concern about high gasoline and other fuel prices is bipartisan, but sharply divided on income lines, cited by 70 percent of households earning less than $25,000 per year, compared to 37 percent of households earning $75,000 or more per year.

-- Over half of Americans (52 percent) said that gas prices at $4 would cause them to "cut back on ...summer or end-of-year holiday travel" and nearly three out of five (58 percent) say they would "cut back on their personal spending to help pay for higher gasoline prices." If gasoline rises over $4 a gallon, nearly three out of five Americans (58 percent) will cut back on travel plans, while 63 percent will pull back on their personal spending.

-- More than a third (37 percent) of Americans say they would be more likely to buy a hybrid, clean diesel or other highly fuel-efficient vehicle if the price of gasoline goes to $4. This percentage increases to 44 percent if the price of gas exceeds $4 a gallon.

-- Rising fuel prices already have caused 34 percent of Americans who drive to or at work to cut back on their driving. Even though 65 percent are driving the same amount as before, the reason is that they have no choice but to do so. Only 12 percent of those in this group who have not cut back on their driving in the face of higher gasoline prices are doing so because they are insensitive to the prices. By contrast, over half of Americans (52 percent) who have not cut back on driving say they "have to (keep driving) in order to keep earning a living." Half of those making $25,000 a year or less have cut back on their driving, compared to just 23 percent of those in households earning $75,000 or more. Democrats (39 percent) and Independents (40 percent) are more likely than Republicans (24 percent) to be driving less.

-- About half of Americans (49 percent) are "not satisfied" that "Congress did everything it could to improve fuel-efficiency rules for U.S. automakers" in recently increasing federal mile-per-gallon standards. Fewer than one in 10 Americans (8 percent) say they are "very satisfied" that Congress did all it could, compared to a quarter (24 percent) who are "not at all satisfied."

-- About four out of five Americans (79 percent) would support "a tax on the windfall profits of oil companies if the resulting revenues were spent" for "research on alternative energy." Over half of Americans (52 percent) say they would support this approach "a great deal." The strong bipartisan support for this approach includes 72 percent of Republicans, 79 percent of Independents and 84 percent of Democrats. If the funds were used for the "creation of a federal emergency fund to offset the harm of future climate change-related disasters, such as hurricanes, droughts and wildfires," support for a windfall profits tax comes in at 64 percent support - including 48 percent of Republicans, 55 percent of Independents and 77 percent of Democrats.

-- More than two out of five Americans (44 percent) now are more likely "to buy a hybrid, clean-diesel or other more fuel-efficient vehicle" than they were six months ago. Strikingly, the group that is most likely to do so is sharply divided by age: two out of three 18-24 year olds (67 percent) and fewer than three out of 10 (29 percent) of those over the age of 65. When the number of Americans who are just as likely to buy a hybrid now as they were six months ago (28 percent) is factored in, the total of number of Americans who are more or as likely to buy highly fuel-efficient vehicles climbs to 72 percent.

-- Over half of Americans (52 percent) -- including 59 percent of men and 45 percent of women -- drive to or at work. Of these Americans, 48 percent drive a car to work and 4 percent drive at work, e.g., truck drivers, salesmen, etc. Two thirds of Americans who drive to work commute 100 miles a week or less, 18 percent travel 101-200 miles per week and 15 percent commute 201 miles per week or more, including 11 percent who log 300 miles or more behind the wheel each week.

For the full CSI/40MPG.org survey findings, please go to http://www.civilsocietyinstitute.org/ or http://www.40mpg.org/.

METHODOLOGY

The Opinion Research Corporation survey for the Civil Society Institute/40MPG.org was conducted by phone among a sample of 1,001 adults (500 men and 501 women) aged 18 and older living in private households in the Continental United States. Interviewing was completed January 11-14, 2008. The survey was weighted by four variables: age, sex, geographic region and race to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the total population. The margin of error at the 95 percent confidence level for the full sample is plus or minus 3 percent. Smaller sub-groups will have larger error margins.

CSI and 40MPG.org conducted earlier national opinion surveys about rising gasoline prices in September 2005 and May 2007.

ABOUT CSI

The nonprofit and nonpartisan Civil Society Institute (http://www.civilsocietyinstitute.org/) is a Massachusetts-based think tank that serves as a catalyst for change by creating problem-solving interactions among people, and between communities, government and business that can help to improve society. Since 2003, CSI has conducted more than 15 major national and state-level surveys on energy and global warming issues. CSI is a facilitator of Clean Energy Action Now (CLEAN) at http://www.cleanenergyaction.net/ and the organizer of both 40MPG.org (http://www.40mpg.org/) and the Hybrid Owners of America (http://www.hybridownersofamerica.org/).