Many Americans are skeptical of electric cars

David MontgomerySenior data journalist
March 29, 2024, 8:43 PM GMT+0

A majority of U.S. adult citizens say they don't own — and would not consider buying — an electric car, and many doubt electric cars are more efficient or better for the environment than traditional gas cars.

The Economist / YouGov Poll conducted March 24 - 26, 2024 asked 1,594 Americans about climate change, electric vehicles, and the EPA's new emissions standards that will push automakers to release more low-emissions vehicles.

The poll found considerable skepticism about electric cars among much of the American public, and limited direct experience with the technology. Just 4% of Americans have ever owned an electric vehicle, compared to 8% who have owned a hybrid vehicle and 83% who've owned a gas vehicle.

Even among the 61% of Americans who believe that "the world's climate is changing as a result of human activity," only 58% say they would consider buying an electric car or have already bought one. Among Americans who don't believe human-caused climate change is occurring, less than 20% say they own or would consider owning an electric car.

While electric-car ownership is low among all age groups, younger adults are more likely than older ones to say they would consider buying one (53% among those under 30 vs. 24% of those 65 and older).

Many Republicans doubt electric vehicles' claimed benefits

Most Democrats (58%) haven't owned an electric car but would consider buying one; 6% own one now and 2% have in the past. 32% of Democrats say they've never owned an electric car and wouldn't consider buying one.

In contrast, 14% of Republicans say they haven't owned an electric car but would consider buying one; 2% either own one now or have owned one in the past. 83% of Republicans have never owned an electric car and won't consider buying one.

This Republican skepticism of electric cars extends beyond personal-finance considerations. Many Republicans doubt many of the claimed benefits of electric vehicles, compared to traditional gas vehicles.

For example, majorities of Democrats say electric vehicles are better for the environment than gas vehicles (70% to 7%) and that electric vehicles are more energy-efficient than gas vehicles (68% to 7%). But more Republicans say gas vehicles are better for the environment (36%, compared to 21% saying electric vehicles) and more energy-efficient (42% say gas vehicles, 22% say electric ones).

Democrats and Republicans are more likely to say gas vehicles are more affordable to maintain and more reliable than electric vehicles.

The EPA's new proposed auto-emissions standards, which require automakers to produce more vehicles with low carbon dioxide emissions, draw a divided response from U.S. adult citizens. 44% of Americans say they strongly or somewhat support those standards, while 41% oppose them.

Democrats, younger Americans, and college graduates are more likely to support the emissions standards, while Republicans, older Americans and those without college degrees are less likely.

Carl Bialik contributed to this article

See the toplines and crosstabs from the Economist/YouGov poll conducted on March 24 - 26, 2024 among 1,594 U.S. adult citizens.

Methodology: Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to November 1, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 31% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 3%.

Image: Getty