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We study the relative merit of regulation by “prices vs. quantities” by assessing the instrument choice between carbon taxes and emissions trading systems from the perspective of public perceptions. In a stated-choice experiment across 15,000 respondents from seven European countries, we elicit how citizens perceive the (non-)economic properties of carbon taxation and emissions trading, and study how they are linked to public support. Our analysis is guided by value-based, reason-based and motivated reasoning approaches to public choice. While there is considerable cross-country variation in the appraisal of both instruments, treatments effects of instrument framing are sizeable: carbon taxes are consistently more often perceived as increasing the state budget, harming the economy, and increasing costs of living and production, and emissions trading is more often perceived as easy to evade. Our results suggests that public opinion on carbon pricing is driven by perceptions around taxes being a ’tougher’ measure, and that emissions trading may be less prone to solely appeal to pro-climate segments of European societies.

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