Virginia Democrats Should Avoid Bans on Gas Powered Cars and Trucks 

Over the next few weeks, lawmakers in Richmond, may consider legislation about the Commonwealth’s future commitment to electric vehicles, or EVs. Last month, the Democratically controlled Virginia Senate rejected several Republican bills that would completely gut Virginia’s commitment to the widespread deployment of EVs across the Commonwealth.

According to recent polling by my organization, Centrist Democrats of America (CDA), Virginia Senate Democrats were wise to reject these highly partisan efforts, by Republicans, to set back efforts to fight global warming through clean transportation policies. Our poll indicates that a strong majority of voters in Virginia are concerned about the effect of climate change (79%), including a majority of Democrats (94%), independents (78%), and Republicans (61%).

CDA wanted to gauge the views of Virginians on EVs, because as moderate Democrats, we believe Democrats have the most success when we lead by supporting sensible policies that appeal to the largest segment of society. Winning over independent voters offers Democrats the greatest chance to control government. Conversely, losing these swing voters led to last year’s election of the current Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin.

With this in mind, CDA wanted to understand how Virginians felt about the government banning the sale of new gas- and diesel-powered vehicles. Current law in Virginia mandates an increase in electric vehicle sales by requiring that a minimum percentage of new vehicle sales in Virginia need to be electric. As part of this law, the Commonwealth may also have to adopt California’s next electric vehicle policy, which is a full ban on the sale of any new gasoline and diesel vehicles throughout the Commonwealth starting in 2035. We polled Virginians on this matter, and asked them if Virginia should follow California’s lead on EV sales, or implement its own rules. CDA found:

Only 25% of Virginians strongly or even somewhat support adopting CA rules, while 62% strongly or somewhat support Virginia implementing its own rules. This view is certainly true among Republican voters (77% support VA writing its own rules), but also among independents (72%), and even a plurality of Democratic voters agrees (45% feel VA should write its own rules compared to 40% who feel the Virginia should adopt the CA rules).

Our polling indicates why Virginians are hesitant to support a total ban on the sale of new gas- or diesel-powered cars and trucks. We found 61% of Virginians, who don’t plan on buying an EV in the next two years (48% percent of Virginians according to our poll) strongly agree that “electric vehicles are too expensive and designed for wealthy drivers.”

Also, when asked what are the best approaches for the Virginia government to encourage more residents to buy EVs, the top three answers were: “let the new vehicle market reflect consumer demand” at 33%, “subsidize the cost of buying a new electric vehicle for residents” at 25% and “provide state funding to ensure that there are more charging stations available around the commonwealth” at 22%.

To get a fuller understanding of how Virginians think the government should be spending, we found that people’s top priorities for funding were “ending childhood hunger,” fixing “our roads and bridges,” and “police training and hiring.” Rounding out the bottom of funding priorities was funding for “wind and solar energy,” “public transportation,” and coming in last was “increasing the number of electric vehicles.”

Finally, our polling did find support for government investment in building out charging stations, with the federal government bearing the greatest burden, followed by states, private business and consumers.

CDA urges lawmakers in Richmond, both Democrats and Republicans, to look at this data and put common sense and public service over partisan politics. The polling is clear, Virginians are worried about climate change and generally supportive of EVs but draw the line at government bans of gas- and diesel-powered vehicles.