We shed new light on a long-standing question in political science; when confronted with costly policy-choices, do citizens form their preferences based on material (economic) concerns or other-regarding motivations, such as the distribution of costs, and how these are moderated by political ideology. Using the case of carbon taxation, a widely advocated policy solution to climate change, we conducted survey experiments in Germany and the United States to assess the relative importance of these forms of preferences. The results show that individuals are primarily concerned with how a carbon tax would impact their individual income. There are also important cross-national differences with high-income German respondents being more receptive to redistributive policy design, especially in contrast to high-income Democrats who significantly decrease support for carbon taxation. These findings highlight how the constituencies generated by new policies can significantly alter the distribution of mass support for action upon emerging societal problems.