Examining How Message Characteristics Influence Support for Gasoline Tax Increases

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Principal investigators:

Aaron McCright

Michigan State University

Email: mccright@msu.edu

Homepage: http://www.aaronmccright.com/

Stan Kaplowitz

Michigan State University

Email: kaplowi1@msu.edu

Homepage: http://sociology.msu.edu/faculty/profile/kaplowitz-stan/

Sample size: 1697

Field period: 11/05/2011-03/12/2013

H1: Having the tax increase phased in, (rather than implemented immediately) will lead to greater acceptance of increasing the gasoline tax.
H2a: A statement that the tax increase will motivate purchases of more fuel efficient vehicles in the future will increase support for the tax increase as compared to the condition with no such statement.
H2b: A statement that the tax increase will not only motivate buying more fuel efficient cars, but also motivate other ways to conserve fuel such as alternative forms of transportation and carpooling, will increase support for the tax above the increase from the statement described in H2a.
H3: Proposed uses of the revenue that make the increase less of a hardship (H3a: refunding the revenue to all families equally) and/or propose that the revenue will be used to enhance public transportation and renewable energy (H3b) will lead to greater support for the tax increase.
Both of the following beliefs contribute to the acceptance of increasing the gasoline tax: (H4a) that human caused climate change is a significant danger and (H4b) that increasing taxes is acceptable.
Experimental Manipulations
H1 to H3 were tested by experimentally varying descriptions of the proposal (H1 and H3) or by persuasive messages that we provided along with the proposal (H2).

Opposition/support for $1 per gallon gasoline tax increase (on 11-point scale)
Highest tax increase per gallon that R could support

Summary of Results
H1 received modest support.
H2a received modest support.
H2b was not supported.
H3a and 3b were not supported in this study, but in later studies (that did not use TESS but did improve the explanation of the proposals), these were strongly supported.