Survey Breaks Down EV Preferences By Politics and Ethnicity

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

A recent opinion survey has attempted to break down the public interest in all-electric vehicles based on key demographics. While the results were largely predictable, there were some novel takeaways that could be of interest to automakers hoping to market the vehicles. The data also shows how trends may be shifting, with the prognosis being less than ideal for EVs.

The big takeaway was that there’s a pretty hard divide between Republicans and Democrats in terms of EV interest. A majority of Republicans (57 percent) said they wouldn’t even consider buying an electric car. By contrast, only about 20 percent of Democrats said the same — with 15 percent saying they would definitely purchase an EV while 41 percent said they’d at least consider it.

Democrats were also more inclined to own an EV already, with 4 percent of the whole saying they’d buy another one. Only 1 percent of the surveyed Republicans said the same, with a matching 1 percent saying they already owned an EV and wouldn’t be interested in another.

The survey was conducted by BlueLabs, an information technology services and consulting firm based in Washington, DC. While your author is not broadly familiar with the company, it claims to have conducted over 1,000 randomized experiments and hundreds of studies that have “driven significant gains in some of the highest profile private sector, advocacy, and government programs.”

Though BlueLabs does not appear to be an unbiased actor. It was founded by a quartet of former analysts working for the Democratic National Committee, most of whom cut their teeth working for the Obama campaign. The rest of the staff also appears to be DNC employees, many of whom likewise worked for Hilary Clinton and/or the Obama administration. Something to keep in mind, especially while examining the political demographics.

That said, the data presented appears sound enough in itself with BlueLabs perhaps only being guilty of being a little more optimistic about EV adoption than the numbers might suggest. The firm suggests there is a plurality of Americans who “definitely or might consider an EV for their next purchase.” It also claimed that purchasing preferences have “held steady” between the current survey (conducted in August) and the previous one (conducted in February).

However, the resulting data doesn’t really support this. While the shift is admittedly modest, respondents have clearly moved toward being less inclined to want an all-electric vehicle. At the same time, the percentage of those who have already purchased an EV remained flat.

I’m willing to believe the above can be attributed to a standard margin of error or possibly the difference in where data samples came from. However, we’ve seen other reports suggesting that public interest in electrified vehicles has plateaued, and sales data that appears to back that up.

BlueLabs informed InsideEVs that it reached out to “a mixed pool of 2,422 adults.” However, it did not specify what parts of the country the samples were from.

“BlueLabs goes to great lengths to make sure its surveys are a representative sample of the US population. Bluelabs balances the challenges of declining polling response rates by conducting surveys via SMS, cell, landline, online, and text-to-web. These techniques allow us to reach more representative people to increase accuracy,” a spokesperson told the outlet.

Representative sampling based on “urbanicity” showed that people living in cities were more prone to EV acceptance. This was unsurprising, as EVs tend to make more sense in an urban environment — assuming you have a garage in which to charge them. Rural residents who are forced to drive longer distances would undoubtedly be less well suited to EV ownership.

Political differences between the two groups and gaps in the charging infrastructure may have ended up influencing the results as well. BlueLabs further examined this by including data that showed urban Republicans were more inclined to consider electric vehicles. While they were still far less likely to shop electric, they were noticeably more interested than their rural counterparts.

Though preferences sorted by ethnicity might be the most interesting. BlueLabs asserted in its report that Hispanic Americans are the demographic most likely to buy an all-electric car. While Black Americans expressed the highest amount of interest overall, they were also the group that expressed the least amount of interest in buying any new vehicles right now. White Americans ended up being the most representative of the national average, which makes sense as they’re presumably the most populous demographic in the survey.

Roughly 21 percent of all respondents stated they were not interested in buying or leasing any new vehicles. That’s actually higher than one might expect, as there’s usually not more than 20 percent of the population that’s even considering a new vehicle in any given year. However, since the survey is relatively noncommittal, focusing on an interest in buying rather than definitive future purchases, we can assume respondents might have been a little more eager.

Either way, BlueLabs believes that EV preferences would improve if more people were made aware of available tax credits. The survey seems to suggest that around 40 percent of Americans have zero awareness of government incentives tied to electric vehicles with a scant minority feeling they’re well informed on the topic.

That seems impossibly low to me. But I’m also someone who has to read about the matter nearly every day. People who are not permanently plugged into the automotive industry wouldn’t have the same exposure. However, it still seems implausible that nearly half the country has never even heard of EV tax credits.

BlueLabs recommended reaching out to Black Americans specifically, saying it presented “an opportunity to address hesitation toward EVs.” Though Hispanics were nearly as unaware and no group was actually well versed on the matter — either because they’ve never heard of it or because the revised regulatory scheme implemented by the Biden administration has complicated the issue by making eligibility contingent on regional content requirements, vehicle pricing, and income brackets. 

[Images: Ford Motor Co.; BlueLabs]

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Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Kat Laneaux @jalop1991I get that. It should be that way. Bills should be one and only one. None of this...if you scratch my back, i'll scratch yours as long as you agree with this too. That's petty and bs. I guess no one has enough balls to stand up for what is right, regardless of which side you stand on. Do one bill and pass it but pass it on merits and not on tit for tat.
  • Kat Laneaux They do but the electric companies are striving to go higher on prices. They supposedly were petitioning to allow higher charges for Solar users, here in NC.As long as they have the money to buy regulations, anything can happen and I really don't feel like spending my dollars on satisfying those evil, money hungry people.
  • J I haven't owned a sedan since like 2011 had a ford fusion and impala then I discovered hatchbacks beats an SUV but the amount of stuff I can do with my little hatchbacks leaves sedan owners and even some SUV and truck owners surprised
  • Dougjp It seems like I'm in a minority by rejecting CUV/SUVs and wanting "cars" instead. Its because, comparing apples to apples (same specs), I don't want (a) worse performance, (b) worse handling, (c) worse fuel economy, (d) worse road & wind noise and (e) higher cost. I'm quite willing to PAY for shipping that costs way less than 1% of the difference between the cost of a car and a comparable CUV/SUV, to buy a bulky piece of furniture from a store that doesn't provide free shipping. Which I would seldom buy anyway. The problem is, people don't think logically, and would rather default to herd mentality. Its the same as why people buy "off road vehicles", complete with ugly add on patch body work to "look the part", then they never go off road.
  • FreedMike How about one for a brown diesel wagon?