What Do Americans Think About Federal Tax Options to Support Transportation? Results from Year Eleven of a National Survey

What Do Americans Think About Federal Tax Options to Support Transportation? Results from Year Eleven of a National Survey

Abstract: 

This report summarizes the results from the eleventh year of a national public opinion survey asking U.S. adults questions related to their views on federal transportation taxes. A nationally-representative sample of 2,515 respondents completed the online survey between February 14 and 28, 2020.

The questions test public opinions about raising the federal gas tax rate, replacing the federal gas tax with a new mileage fee, and imposing a mileage fee just on commercial travel. In addition to asking directly about support for these tax options, the survey collected data on respondents’ views on the quality of their local transportation system, their priorities for federal transportation spending, their knowledge about gas taxes, their views on privacy and equity matters related to mileage fees, travel behavior, and standard sociodemographic variables. This large set of variables is used to identify personal characteristics and opinions correlated with support for the tax options.

Key findings include that large majorities supported transportation improvements across modes, only 3% of respondents knew that the federal gas tax rate had not been raised in more than 20 years, three-quarters of respondents supported increasing the federal gas tax by 10 cents-per-gallon if the revenue would be dedicated to maintenance, roughly half of respondents supported some form of mileage fee, whether that was assessed on all travel or just on commercial travel, and three-quarters of respondents would prefer to pay a mileage fee in small installments instead of in one annual payment.

Authors: 

ASHA WEINSTEIN AGRAWAL, PH.D.

Dr. Agrawal is the Director of the MTI National Transportation Finance Center and also professor of Urban and Regional Planning at San José State University. Her research and teaching interests in transportation policy and planning include transportation finance, bicycle and pedestrian planning, and travel survey methods. She also works in the area of transportation history. She has a B.A. from Harvard University in Folklore and Mythology, an M.Sc. from the London School of Economics and Political Science in Urban and Regional Planning, and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, in City and Regional Planning.

HILARY NIXON, PH.D.

Dr. Nixon is Deputy Executive Director for the Mineta Transportation Institute and a faculty member in the M.S. Transportation Management program at San José State University. She specializes in transportation and environmental planning and policy, and her research focuses primarily on the factors that influence pro-environmental behavior and the relationship between transportation and the environment. She earned a B.A. from the University of Rochester and a Ph.D. in Planning, Policy and Design from the University of California, Irvine.

Published: 

June 2020

Keywords: 

Transportation taxes
Transportation fees
Public opinion
Gasoline tax
Mileage fees
Highway user taxation
User charges