This report summarizes the results from the twelfth 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 2,516 respondents completed the online survey from February 5 to 23, 2021.
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 and wanted to see the federal government work towards making the transportation system well maintained, safe, and equitable, as well as to reduce the system’s impact on climate change. Findings related to gas taxes include that only 2% of respondents knew that the federal gas tax rate had not been raised in more than 20 years, and 71% of respondents supported increasing the federal gas tax by 10 cents per gallon if the revenue would be dedicated to maintenance. With respect to mileage fees, roughly half of respondents supported some form of mileage fee, whether that was assessed on all travel or just on commercial travel, 62% believe that low-income drivers should pay a reduced mileage fee rate, and 52% think that electric vehicles should pay a lower rate than gas and diesel vehicles. The analysis of trends across the survey series, which has run from 2010 to 2011, shows that support for both higher gas taxes and a hypothetical new mileage fee has risen slowly but steadily, and Americans’ experience with COVID over the past year has not disrupted those trends. Finally, support for the tax and fee options varies mostly by most personal characteristics, but there are frequently large differences correlated with age, community type, and political affiliation.
ASHA WEINSTEIN AGRAWAL, PhD
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 earned a BA in Folklore and Mythology from Harvard University, an MSc in Urban and Regional Planning from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and a PhD in City and Regional Planning from the University of California, Berkeley.
HILARY NIXON, PhD
Dr. Nixon is Deputy Executive Director of the Mineta Transportation Institute and a faculty member in the MS 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 BA from the University of Rochester and a PhD in Planning, Policy and Design from the University of California, Irvine.