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.

– Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker

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.

Also see:

Obama re-election team increases fundraising haul

Buffett Rule would barely dent debt but fits nicely into Obama's theme

McCain: I agree with Ann Romney


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

    1/2 of the working population pay no taxes, so half of the people polled who think the code favors the wealthy pay no taxes themselves...Amazing.

    April 17, 2012 06:57 am at 6:57 am |
  2. Donaize

    Kuddos to this administration for its sheer brillance in convincing the American public that the wealthy don't pay their "fair share" in income tax – the problem people isn't with income tax on the wages that one makes – it is on the investments that earn salary and draw a very low rate – there is a big difference and this administration has played well into the stupidity of the public -

    April 17, 2012 06:58 am at 6:58 am |
  3. virginia voter

    It favors the wealthy and the poor. One group pays too little of their share and the other none at all.

    April 17, 2012 06:59 am at 6:59 am |
  4. Donaize

    Kuddos to this administration for its sheer brillance in convincing the American public that the wealthy don't pay their "fair share" in income tax – the problem people isn't with income tax on the wages that one makes – it is on the investments that earn salary and which draw a very low tax rate – there is a big difference and this administration has done an effective job in assuming that the general public doesn't discern between the two -

    April 17, 2012 07:00 am at 7:00 am |
  5. cptwayne

    What is wrong is living on fixed incomes and watch your retirement evaporate in increasing taxes and inflation. Hidden taxes go up all the time. The COLA, well, it's basicly a half lie. Why? Because it is a half truth. To cover a 10% inflation starting in January, you need around 12% COLA for the rest of the year. Do the math. Once a person leaves the work force, why are they still paying taxes on retirement income? The tax rate after retirement should remain fixed at the rate based on their date of retirement. Stop the increase in tax for fixed incomers. Stop the cheating on COLA. Stop the erosion of retirement income.

    April 17, 2012 07:00 am at 7:00 am |
  6. Phill

    They need to ask who gives most Americans a job? The poor?

    April 17, 2012 07:01 am at 7:01 am |
  7. GODZILLA1

    Absolutely right: lobbyists for the wealthy have manipulated the creation of this tax code to benefit the one percent and to screw the rest of us.

    April 17, 2012 07:01 am at 7:01 am |
  8. rs1201

    Whether people want to admit it or not...the more money one makes the more taxes one pays...the wealthy pay lots of taxes. BTW, what exactly is the definition of wealthy? is it someone making more than you do or is it your boss or the ceo of the company you work for or is it people you hear about in the news? I don't look at other people's wealth...I look at my own and how I can increase it...what is it that I can do to maximize what I have and what I earn...If you're busy looking at other people's wealth, then you'll stagnate and always be at the lowest point of the income and wealth ladder. Firstly, before making any comments about other people's wealth...look at their education and their training and finally their contribution to society. If you have a high school degree or a GED, then you deserve nothing but the minimum. Do you realize that people can spend 20 years after high school educating and training themselves for a career? doctors come to mind...surgeons. Do you think that you deserve their income or their benefits? You do not...and you never will unless you provide a service equivalent to what they provide...saving lives. How about a research scientist who spends 15 hour days in the laboratory trying to understand a disease and then tackling a cure for that disease. Do you think you deserve what they get in income? You do not...
    So, before complaining about what other people are making and their lifestyle...look at yourself and figure out what you can do to improve yourself...that'll be your first step up the income ladder...

    April 17, 2012 07:01 am at 7:01 am |
  9. Robb Thorpe

    How can a tax system favor the rich when 47% of Americans on the opposite end of rich pay nothing?

    April 17, 2012 07:01 am at 7:01 am |
  10. MrBig

    Of course the tax system favors the rich. They're the ones that came up with the system.
    A flat tax on ALL income, no deductions, no games, no tricks would allow us to "lower" the actual tax rate.
    It's all the deductions, loop holes, etc that screw up the "system". Nobody pays at the published tax rate on their income.
    It's a joke.

    April 17, 2012 07:02 am at 7:02 am |
  11. ST

    Those who possess mega dollars (the rich) need also to get a mega-dose of high tax. They are the ones who are complicating the economy. This should be the big concern to the poor. Why should it be a formula that once a person was born poor, must die poor, while the rich are continuing filling up their big pockets in the expenses of the poor.

    April 17, 2012 07:02 am at 7:02 am |
  12. Argie57

    So Buffet pays taxes at a lower rate than his secretary. OK, I see how that may seem unfair. I propose that we lower the secretary's tax rate.

    Too rational for an election year where we need lots of populism to excite the masses?

    April 17, 2012 07:03 am at 7:03 am |
  13. Mark

    "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."

    Almost 70%. Pitiful that our representives in congress, the people we put in place to represent us, ignore our views and continue to represent the corporations and billionaires instead of us. Any member of congress who voted against the Buffet rule should be voted out of office immediately.

    April 17, 2012 07:03 am at 7:03 am |
  14. Mollybee

    Of course they do.....because it does.

    April 17, 2012 07:03 am at 7:03 am |
  15. The Greedy Old Pigs declared class war on US!

    Most Americans are correct about his. People are waking up to how badly the predators and psychopaths lurking among the 1% have corrupted our government, our economy and our country. The tax code is just one good example of how deeply embedded this corruption is. Notice also how the GOBP's corrupt thugs in the Senate willfully gave the finger to the 70% of Americans who want the millionaire tax. We need to start by voting them out of office.

    April 17, 2012 07:04 am at 7:04 am |
  16. joe prov

    My fed taxes are fine it’s the combination of all of my deductions that is killing me – seems like it costs 1/3 of my income just to have a job. Then you add local property taxes and assorted fees and the various insurances we need to carry I am lucky to end a month with 1/3 of my income to pay for everything else. The rich have it made compared to us normal working people – because even if they end up with 1/4 of their income it’s still enough to live lavishly – what I have left over is barely enough to make ends meet.

    April 17, 2012 07:05 am at 7:05 am |
  17. dd

    read cafferty's file from yesterday.....and a cnn poll is a tad bias....come-on, at least be honest about it.

    April 17, 2012 07:09 am at 7:09 am |
  18. TrajkLogik

    Uh... If almost half of Americans pay no income taxes, wouldn't it mean that the current tax system benefits them and not those that actually have to pay it? When it comes down to it, the current tax system benefits no one except the govt. They spend more than they have, and then threaten to take more from those that have more, but who also invest their money into the economy, possibly risking it all, as the govt risks nothing. The govt can invest in companies and just ask for more money when they fail. Sure, Wall Street can steal your money, but the govt, can steal your money, your liberties and your sons and daughters for its wars. Govt. is by far the greater evil. Let's get out priorities straight.

    April 17, 2012 07:09 am at 7:09 am |
  19. Patrick Manley

    Raising taxes on the wealthy plays well politically, but does nothing to help the economy. Drastically slashing government spending and lowering taxes for everyone is another story. For example, if most wealthy Americans are paying about 22% in income taxes, then lower the tax rate for those making less to 10%. Eliminating the Departments of Energy, Education and Commerce, along with the EPA as we know it would be a good start.

    April 17, 2012 07:10 am at 7:10 am |
  20. Mikr

    No surprise when close to half the country eligible to pay federal tax effectively pay none.

    April 17, 2012 07:10 am at 7:10 am |
  21. Nancy

    Ahh, read my lips no new taxes. Just kidding, I'm gonna raise taxes. Remember who said that, yea it was a small govt republican.

    April 17, 2012 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  22. Al

    If the current tax system were to be repealed, and a form of fair tax put in place where everyone were to pay an equal percentage of what they spend above and beyond the base price of the item being purchased everyone would be paying taxes, and April 15th would just be another day in the calendar, and not some crazy day when people go hog wild looking for all the ways to safe their money from going up in smoke.

    April 17, 2012 07:13 am at 7:13 am |
  23. Polemos

    "Unfair" in what way? It would be useful for CNN to share its survey questions and data.

    April 17, 2012 07:14 am at 7:14 am |
  24. ps

    Yes, and how many of those 68% that say the tax system favors the rich pay No income tax at all?

    April 17, 2012 07:14 am at 7:14 am |
  25. czuklz

    So 68% say their taxes are too high, and 47% pay no Federal tax at all. There are people who pay no taxes and still think their taxes are too high. That's an Obama-nation.

    April 17, 2012 07:14 am at 7:14 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13