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Is the public clamoring for more EPA regulation?

That’s what Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) claimed yesterday in a speech on the Senate floor (Congressional Record, pp. 1955-57) denouncing S. 493, the McConnell amendment/Inhofe-Upton Energy Tax Prevention Act, which would stop EPA from ‘legislating’ climate policy.

Boxer cited a poll finding that 69% of Americans believe “EPA should update Clean Air Act standards with stricter pollution limits.” Of course, most people want cleaner air in the abstract. That tells us nothing about how much those same people are willing to pay for cleaner air, or what other public priorities (e.g. affordable energy, job creation) they are willing to sacrifice or put at risk. In the abstract, most people also support a balanced budget.  But that does not necessarily mean they want Congress to cut their favorite programs or raise taxes. Without meaning to, people can easily “lie” to a pollster (see the accompanying cartoon).

In an earlier post today, I note that in the November 2010 elections, voters punished lawmakers pushing the EPA-Obama-Boxer stealth energy tax agenda formerly known as cap-and-trade. Elections are the most relevant “poll” for guiding legislative deliberations.

Maybe Boxer thinks she has more up-to-date information about public attitudes. But a very recent opinion survey conducted by the Tarrance Group directly contradicts the poll Boxer cites. Here are the results, as summarized in the Tarrance Group’s March 30, 2011 press release: [click to continue…]