CNN/ORC poll: Most Americans say tax system favors wealthy
April 17th, 2012
05:00 AM ET
10 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.

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. gt

    ya think.... only way to male it fair...flat tax....

    April 17, 2012 05:38 am at 5:38 am |
  2. truthbagger

    You have a budget, thats paid for!
    You give a big hunk away to your croonies!
    You don't replace it with budget cuts!
    Creating a deficit!
    Then you borrow to cover your spending, increasing the deficit by the interest!
    Then you tell everyone "were broke" we have to cut all middle class benifits and Education, Medicare , Firemen, Police etc!
    And, you want to take more revenue and give it to your croonies again!
    Your a thief and a liar, following the plan called "Starve the beast, then kill it"!
    This Grand Republican Scam is bringing America back to a "Kingdom"!
    119 people put up 80% of all campaign money! of that 5 people put up 80% of that! The Supreme Court allows secret donations, so since 93% of all elections go to the candidate with the most money, America becomes a Kingdom were 5 Kings and 114 Barons rule the United States!
    Look at the fact that even when 78% of all Americans want to do something, they can't get it done! So, there goes our Democracy!

    April 17, 2012 05:55 am at 5:55 am |
  3. jon

    If it favors the wealthy, how come 50% of Americans pay nothing?

    April 17, 2012 05:59 am at 5:59 am |
  4. Jimmminy

    It is fascinating that among the two-thirds who think the tax system is unfair, there must be a significant portion of those belonging to the 48% who pay no taxes at all. I suppose the government should be paying them.

    April 17, 2012 06:00 am at 6:00 am |
  5. Maggie

    This is proof positive that it is all about party ideology, not the American people. It is about allegiance to Grover norquist, not the people who voted for them.

    April 17, 2012 06:01 am at 6:01 am |
  6. bobfromaccounttemps

    Only half of americans pay taxes but according to this 18% of folks who pay nothing think the wealthy are benefiting? Doesn't make sense. My effective tax rate is 25% federal and state combined.

    April 17, 2012 06:09 am at 6:09 am |
  7. Mike Cooke

    How many who were polled actually paid taxes ?

    April 17, 2012 06:11 am at 6:11 am |
  8. Matt Houston

    No kidding it favors the wealthy. Who do you think writes the stuff. Who do you think is in Congress and the rest of the Gov? Joe the Plumber?

    April 17, 2012 06:12 am at 6:12 am |
  9. awasis

    It always has. Those with the power make the rules. Those with the money have the power.

    April 17, 2012 06:13 am at 6:13 am |
  10. Dale

    "CNN/ORC poll: Most Americans say tax system favors wealthy"And President Obama, several politician, their supporters and contributors are among the rich benefiting from the tax laws.

    April 17, 2012 06:14 am at 6:14 am |
  11. ComSenseWiz

    The chatter on taxes is going nowhere until after the election. In November & December, it will be "wall-to-wall" tax chatter as the Bush tax cuts are scheduled to expire 12/31. With a budget deficit running at 4 BILLION PER DAY, taxes must go up as it will be absolutely impossible to get anywhere near a balanced budget with only spending cuts. That is the reality whether you or I like it or not. Get used to it.

    April 17, 2012 06:19 am at 6:19 am |
  12. Marie MD

    Ask the flip flopper who can't get his taxes done in time. I guess his highly paid accountants and lawyers (what? you don't have these working on your taxes?) are trying to find every single loophole for that $10M in JUST interest he made last year. Of course, that is only the money we know about.

    April 17, 2012 06:20 am at 6:20 am |
  13. Bob

    Yep that's what government does today. It try's to divide the people instead of uniting them. Bottom line the interest on our debt alone would solve soany problems who gets that ontetest? We need to live within a budget Pray for our nation.

    April 17, 2012 06:21 am at 6:21 am |
  14. Ima Forget

    Is this coming from the 54% of people who do not pay taxes?

    April 17, 2012 06:21 am at 6:21 am |
  15. LarryR

    Unbelievable! "50% said the federal income taxes they paid were about right, with 45% saying their taxes were too high" About 47% don't pay any federal income taxes at all! And those that do, I assume the 45%, say they pay too much!

    April 17, 2012 06:21 am at 6:21 am |
  16. mrcranky57

    These surveys are a joke. How many people were surveyed? Unless it's millions of people the survey is a waste of time. Also...this is comical....the Republicans want to lower taxes and have smaller government but the people on this site are Democrats for the most part. How do you think government pays for everything? Taxes! The problem with the USA is too many people are not very bright.

    April 17, 2012 06:22 am at 6:22 am |
  17. Bart

    Most Americans say tax system favors the wealthy and the Republicans want tax reform to eliminate this. The Democrats fight against tax reform and present tax gimmicks like the Buffett Rule. Why does cnn sees this as the Republicans favoring the rich? There reasoning seem to be clouded the political conviction.

    April 17, 2012 06:24 am at 6:24 am |
  18. Rob

    Here's a fact: people that had to pull out money early from 401(k) and IRA funds (you know, to use for silly little things like food and rent) pay more taxes on that money then Mitt paid on his $105 million in capital gains.
    Fair? What school of logic did you receive your degree from?
    Our schools really our failing: there are actually 29 percent that think this system is fair.

    April 17, 2012 06:26 am at 6:26 am |
  19. 1percenter

    haha.. this report is inherently contradicting itself. If we assume the sample truly reflects US population then 99% of respondents are poor and 1% are wealthy. The most obvious outcome of this survey would be the 99% respond against the 1% wealthy by saying the tax system favors them. The fact that only 68% claim the tax system favors the wealthy means that there are some honest true americans among the 99% who do believe that the tax system is not pro-wealthy.

    April 17, 2012 06:26 am at 6:26 am |
  20. arcor100

    We have the best politicians money can buy & they crafted & support the tax system favoring the folks who bought them. Their main focus & efforts are spent in a never ending & expensive effort to get re-elected. No surprises here!!

    April 17, 2012 06:27 am at 6:27 am |
  21. .

    Hmmm whats 15% of 1000? $150.

    What if you earn 1,000,000?

    Thats $15,000

    What is 25% of $100,000? 12,500.

    Simple math. Simple Concept. If you earn more $, the more taxes you pay, even though your % taxed is less.

    Why don't you people get it???

    April 17, 2012 06:29 am at 6:29 am |
  22. Tom

    Tax reform is to equal the playing field for all people in the United States. To send a message to our Government and Wall Street – Just because you write the law's to stack economic royalties in your favor, doesn't negate your duties to the American People to provide life, liberty and happiness to all Americans. Our freedom can not be dictated by our wealth and wealth controlled by so few. This is economic dictatorship

    April 17, 2012 06:30 am at 6:30 am |
  23. Anonymous

    see, i love that they are actually doing polls on public opinion for this sort of thing, i wish politicians read more polls– you know, get an idea of what their voting public actually thinks and then, i dont know, actually use that knowledge to pass laws in accordance or remove laws in accordance with those opinions. but hey, im just a nut job who loves to eat tea cups and ask nonsensical questions. Tell me, how on earth is it that we still have such bad politicians when a raven is like a writing desk? hahahahahahah!!!!! we're all mad here!!!!!

    April 17, 2012 06:31 am at 6:31 am |
  24. notebags

    Hopefully they will remember that when they vote in November.

    April 17, 2012 06:33 am at 6:33 am |
  25. Terry

    All one really needs to do is to look at the various changes or amendments to the tax code over the years, or to the lobbyists who pander to Members of Congress, to realize that the Tax Code allows the wealthy to keep more of their income than average Americans. Just look at the million dollar plus motor coaches driving down the highway. Since these coaches are classified as a second home, the payments are deductible. Since the owners claim the coach is used for business, everything associated with the use of the vehicle is classified as business related, or at least a significant portion. A Flat Tax System makes the most sense, with ZERO Deductions for anything other than childcare. Let the families making in excess of one million dollar incomes, with multiple cars and elevators in the garage to hold those multiple cars, pay a Flat Rate of 30% on all income. Let everyone else pay a Flat Tax of 17%. Suddenly everyone will be happy, and the IRS can send 70% of its workforce home. The system is broken, and all the kings horse and all the kings men......

    April 17, 2012 06:35 am at 6:35 am |
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