CNN/ORC poll: Most Americans say tax system favors wealthy
April 17th, 2012
05:00 AM ET
2 years ago

CNN/ORC poll: Most Americans say tax system favors wealthy

(CNN) - As procrastinators rush to file their 2011 tax returns by the Tuesday deadline, a new poll shows more than two-thirds of Americans believe the revenue system benefits the wealthy while being unfair to average workers.

In the CNN/ORC survey, 68% of respondents said the current tax system benefits the rich and is unfair to ordinary workers, compared with 29% who disagreed with that view. Overall, 50% said the federal income taxes they paid were about right, with 45% saying their taxes were too high and 3% answering their taxes were too low.

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Throughout the 1990s, more than six in 10 Americans generally said their taxes were too high, but after the tax cuts proposed by President George W. Bush went into effect, that number dropped to the high 40s and has stayed in that range since.

Political and generational divisions exist in how Americans view their taxes. Some 53% of Republicans say their income taxes are too high, compared with 41% of Democrats. Among Americans who identify as independents, 44% say they're paying too much in income tax.

Age also matters - the youngest and oldest Americans don't think their taxes are too high, but Americans between 35 and 65 think that way. Among 18-34 year olds, 41% say their taxes are too high, compared with 51% for Americans aged 35-49 and 51% for those aged 50-64.

When polling those 65 and older, 36% said their income taxes were too high.

That generation gap may be better understood as a paycheck gap or salary gap - younger Americans, who tend to have lower-paying jobs, and seniors, who tend to be on fixed incomes, may see less of their household income gobbled up by taxes, compared with workers in their peak earning years who likely feel a bigger tax bite and respond accordingly.

The poll was conducted for CNN by ORC International from Friday to Sunday, with 1,015 adult Americans, including 910 registered voters questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

CNN's Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

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Filed under: CNN Poll Archive • Taxes
soundoff (310 Responses)
  1. Peter Grenader

    Poll: This news network should consider replacing the idiot who made the decision to run this piece.

    The current U.S. Tax code is not a matter of opinion. It's fact. Those who felt it doesn't favor the wealthy are misinformed. Period, end of story. Possibly their individual tax debt is offset by investments which lessen their individual blow, but to say the tax code isn't currently stacked in favor of those in the 1% who can take advantage of the Bush tax breaks as a result – those individuals are polling selfishly and not considering the question they were asked.

    Can we no get on with stories that aren't so pitifully ridiculous? Certainly in the this great country of our there's a cat stuck in a tree somewhere, or a winner in the coca-cola 'you won a free bottle of coke' contest.

    April 17, 2012 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  2. Hasher Iva

    Interesting numbers, but I'm not sure they mean anythng. The high income folks make their money off capital gains, which is taxed differently than salary. The middle/low income folks make their money by working for it. The bottom line is the tax code is too convoluted to understand. Why is the tax code convoluted? Because the folks making the tax code are lawyers, elected officals who are lawyers, who pander to special interest groups and themselves. The entire tax code should be as simple as the 1040-EZ. How much did you make, (that includes everybody; individuals, business, corporations, church, etc.) here's your tax rate, send us the money.

    The GDP for 2010 was ~US$13T. The budget was ~US$3.1T. That's 23%. There's your tax rate for everybody, from the guy who makes $50 to Bill Gates, and every business.

    April 17, 2012 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  3. what's up

    The tax system is abominable. The tax system does provide advantages to those who actually make money. However, the top 25% of earners pay 85% of the taxes. The unfair tax system allows the bottom 50% to ONLY PAY 1% of the Federal Tax revenues.

    It's time for the tax system to be overhaul to make sure EVERYONE pays their fair share.

    April 17, 2012 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  4. pam

    I think a lot of Americans think that because taxes come out of their check that they are paying taxes. People, if you get back more than you pay in, where do you think that money comes from? It doesn't just come from our magic government, it comes from other tax payers. You think these rich people are greedy for using loop holes to keep from paying as much, but what do you think you are doing with earned income credit?

    April 17, 2012 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  5. soul

    If Mitt Romney is elected, he will even make it better for the rich.

    April 17, 2012 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  6. wolfpackbob

    "Overall, 50% said the federal income taxes they paid were about right, ..." Huh? About 50% pay zero income taxes. That was a tough poll question. The media is playing along with the class warfare campaign strategy to the hilt. Blame and envy is a great strategy to get elected. We are sheep.

    April 17, 2012 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  7. Tom

    The question about your taxes being too high/low is skewed. The youngest and oldest generally have a lower taxable income and pay lower taxes. Age really has nothing to do with it.

    April 17, 2012 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  8. Jerry d

    This is hilarious, given that about 50% of the population pays NO income taxes. Shows want political pandering can accomplish.

    April 17, 2012 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  9. aginghippy

    I'm in the 55+ age group, and in my view, it's not so much about whether or not my taxes are too high, it's about two important questions: Is everyone paying their fair share, and is the money being used wisely. Yes, it hurts to see a large percentage of my income go to the state and federal governments. However, if I thought that I was paying the same fair share as everyone else, and the cost of government was really that high, then I would see it as the cost of living in this wonderful nation. I just can't shake the feeling that the very wealthy have ways of hanging on to more of their money, and that the bulk of the tax revenues are wasted on frivolous or even less than moral or ethical expenditures. Year after year, the middle class dutifully hand over their har*-earned money, and year after year we are told that the state or the feds are "going broke". It's demoralizing.

    April 17, 2012 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  10. Jupiter

    It would be helpful to include a few facts about federal income (FI) taxes paid. For example, the top 1% of FI tax payers is (on average) three times or more that of 75% of people who pay FI taxes. Keep in mind that only about 53% of the population pay FI taxes. If that were more widely know, surveys would very likely show different results.

    April 17, 2012 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
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