Most Americans expect gasoline prices will continue to climb, while less than half favor relaxing environmental standards to increase oil production in the United States. On the issue of taxes, a bare majority says the taxes they pay are too high and a large minority says "about right."

The latest Fox News national poll shows that fully 86 percent of Americans expect gasoline prices to go higher this summer with only eight percent saying prices have peaked. The current national average price for a gallon of gasoline is about $1.80.

Even with today's high prices, less than half of the public (46 percent) favors relaxing some environmental standards to increase oil and gas production in the United States, but an almost equal number (43 percent) oppose relaxing standards. These results are essentially unchanged from May 2001 when 45 percent favored relaxing environmental standards and 44 percent opposed.

Regionally, those living in the South are the most likely to favor relaxing environmental standards (50 percent favor) and those living in the Northeast are most likely to oppose relaxing standards (54 percent oppose).

Despite the lack of majority support for relaxing environmental standards, a majority favors limited drilling in Alaska. By 57 percent to 33 percent, Americans favor opening a small amount (defined as less than 10 percent) of the Alaskan wilderness areas for oil exploration as a way to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil. There are predictable partisan differences on this issue, as 78 percent of Republicans favor some oil exploration in the Alaskan wilderness compared to 45 percent of Democrats and 45 percent of independents.

Opinion Dynamics Corporation (search) conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for Fox News on April 6-7.

Opinion is divided on which presidential candidate would do a better job handling the issue of gas prices — 36 percent think President George W. Bush would do a better job, 34 percent think Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (search) would and 30 percent are unsure.

Overall, 14 percent of Americans say the issue of gas prices will be "very important" in deciding their vote for president this year, and 21 percent say "somewhat important," but a 63 percent majority says gas prices will not be an important factor in deciding their vote.

"Obviously with the economy, Iraq and terrorism all out there as issues it is hard for a relatively minor issue like gasoline prices to influence the election," comments Opinion Dynamics President John Gorman (search). "However, if prices continue to rise they will be a constant annoyance to the vast majority of Americans. Most people buy gas once a week or so. This could damage the incumbent because when people are unhappy they tend to vote for change. And, as this could be a close election, even a few hundred angry drivers in a key state could be decisive."

Tax Time

While paying taxes is painful, it can be fun to think about ways to spend a tax refund. The poll finds a 29 percent plurality says they plan to pay bills with their tax refund, 17 percent will put their refund into savings and 10 percent plan to invest it. Only eight percent say they plan to "buy something new" with their refund. One in five Americans volunteered the unprompted reply of "never receive a tax refund."

Just over half (51 percent) think the taxes they pay are "too high," while a large minority (44 percent) says "about right." One percent says the taxes they pay are "too low" and the remaining four percent are unsure.

Polling was conducted by telephone April 6-7, 2004 in the evenings. The sample is 900 registered voters nationwide with a margin of error of ±3 percentage points. 

1. Do you think gasoline prices have peaked, or do you expect gasoline prices to go higher this summer?

All Dem Rep Ind 6-7 Jun 01
1. Peaked 8% 7% 10% 6% 24%
2. Go higher 86 88 82 89 70
3. (Not sure) 6 5 7 5 6

2. Do you favor or oppose relaxing some environmental standards to increase oil and gas production in the United States?

All Dem Rep Ind 9-10 May 01
1. Favor 46% 34% 63% 40% 45%
2. Oppose 43 54 26 49 44
3. (Not sure) 11 12 11 11 11

3. Do you favor or oppose opening a small amount — less than 10 percent — of the Alaskan wilderness areas for oil exploration as a way to reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil?

All Dem Rep Ind 26-27 Feb 02
1. Favor 57% 45% 78% 45% 55%
2. Oppose 33 43 15 45 35
3. (Not sure) 10 12 8 10 10

4. Some people complain about the rising price of gasoline under the Bush administration, while other people complain that Democratic candidate John Kerry would implement a gasoline tax. Which candidate do you think would do a better job handling the issue of gas prices? (ROTATE)

All Dem Rep Ind
1. Bush 36% 12% 74% 28%
2. Kerry 34 62 5 30
3. (Not sure/Other) 30 27 22 41

5. How important will the issue of gas prices be to you in deciding your vote for president this year?

All Dem Rep Ind
1. Very important 14% 20% 6% 12%
2. Somewhat important 21 23 16 26
3. Not very important 24 24 28 19
4. Not at all important 39 31 49 43
5. (Not sure) 2 3 * 1

6. If you receive a tax refund this year, what will you or did you do with most of the money you received?

All Dem Rep Ind
1. Pay off bills, 29% 29% 25% 30%
2. Buy something new, 8 5 12 9
3. Save it, or 17 18 19 14
4. Invest it? 10 10 12 11
5. (Combination) 10 10 10 13
6. (Other/not sure) 6 7 6 4
7. (Never receive refund) 20 22 17 21

7. In general, do you think the taxes you pay are too high, about right or too low?

All Dem Rep Ind
1. Too high 51% 51% 50% 49%
2. About right 44 44 47 44
3. Too low 1 2 1 2
4. (Not sure) 4 3 3 5