Democrats Need to Help Working Families Afford Gasoline, Not Prioritize Electric Vehicles

Hank Naughton is the RealClearPolicy Editor

Strong economic conditions are often associated with a strong job approval rating. But even though the country added 431,000 jobs in March, and unemployment has hit a pandemic-era low of 3.6 percent, Joe Biden’s favorability with the American people continually hovers in the low 40s – which isn’t good.

A lot of Democrats want to know what President Obama and his allies, the Congressmen, can do for the American people in order to restore trust. After all, unless President Biden’s poll numbers improve, it is more likely than not that Democrats will suffer serious losses this November, ceding the House and perhaps even the Senate back to Republican control.

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A possible explanation for Joe Biden’s low approval rating is that the president and his administration are either out of touch with the right issues or too focused on them. Or in other words, focusing on policies that prioritize the progressive elements of the Democratic Party, but are issues that most people either disagree with or simply don’t care much about.

For example, as the American people struggle with record high gasoline prices, the Secretary of Energy touted the importance of a recent $5 billion-dollar government investment in charging stations for electric vehicles, often called EVs. It’s not that EVs – over time – won’t play an important role in our effort to reduce our dependence on oil. It’s just that prioritizing EVs, is not a lifeline for working-class Americans trying to make ends meet. After all, the cost of the average EV is nearly $52,000.

Looking closer at this issue, my organization just commissioned a poll on the attitudes of the American people on EVs. Unsurprisingly, most Americans are concerned about the high cost of gasoline. We found that 91% of respondents are either “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about the high costs of gas and oil. Sadly, 44% of respondents said high gas prices are “making it hard to make ends meet.”

When we asked people how Congress should prioritize spending, issues that were most appealing were increased funding for “ending childhood hunger,” “fixing our roads and bridges,” and “for police training and hiring.” Coming in dead last among respondents: “More funding for increasing the number of electric vehicles.”

These are other important findings from the poll.

  • Only 7% of respondents strongly support adding “an additional charge on people’s electrical bill to help fund the building of charging stations for electric vehicles”
  • Only 14% of the 1,000 respondents say they are “very likely” to purchase an EV in the next two years
  • Cost was the main concern for those who are unlikely to purchase an EV within the next 2 years.
  • To get gas prices down, the most popular solutions are: “Temporarily stop charging state and federal taxes on gas,” “Increase the number of permits for drilling for oil and gas,” and the president’s recent decision to release gasoline from the strategic reserve was popular with just over half of the respondents
  • But, to combat these high gas prices, only 26% of respondents think “we need to do whatever we can to get as many electric vehicles on the road as quickly as possible, including the federal government subsidizing the costs of the cars and building the infrastructure for charging stations”

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Despite the fact that Democrats face difficulties today, it is encouraging that Americans aren’t hiding their priorities and finding meaningful solutions. There is abundant polling out there that shows strengthening the economy, confronting inflation, and the pandemic and the cost of healthcare are issues that are at the top of people’s minds.

Leader of a group that advocates for moderate political policies, I call on the Biden administration to pay attention to voters and to focus their energies on the priorities. If Democrats are responsive to the national needs, we could both win the midterms and help fellow Americans get by in difficult economic times.

Real Clear Wire granted permission to syndicate.

Hank Naughton (President Centrist Democrats of America) is a former Massachusetts legislator, who was also the Chair of the House Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security..

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