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.

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

    Yet the GOP only hear the 30% (actually less than 1%) who like it I guess those are the ones who have the most hand in their pockets or actually represent their large incomes derived from benefits from the 30% they represent.

    April 17, 2012 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  2. Real American

    The government takes about 40% of what you earn, and people think that's not enough?! That blows my mind.

    April 17, 2012 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  3. terry, va

    I guess the 68% that think is system favors the rich is made up of 49% that pay no federal taxes and 19% of people that are jealous of the rich. When All Americans have to pay federal income tax the system will be fair.

    April 17, 2012 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  4. johncnewjr

    And for those of us in the middle, we get squeezed from both the bottom (unfairness) and the top (penalties for moderate success). The American dream is tarnishing around us...

    April 17, 2012 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  5. taxeveryone

    this article is a joke, right? 1/2 of all income earners don't pay any federal taxes. wake up people

    April 17, 2012 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  6. john

    I wonder. According to this article, 50% of Americans said the taxes they paid are "about right". Does this include the 47-49% (depending on whose statistics you use) who not only pay NO TAXES but get paid from others' taxes?

    I guess the tax system does favor the wealthy, if by "favor" you mean it actually makes them pay something instead of NOTHING AT ALL!

    April 17, 2012 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  7. mfox

    Yea baby...spread the wealth. More money in the Kitty means they might loosen the restrictions on getting food stamps...I was denied cause I have a car and said I make too much... my friends just lie but I don't want to lie.

    April 17, 2012 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  8. noel

    Obama would never let those who pay no taxes be burdened by those who, supposedly, don't pay their fair share.

    April 17, 2012 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  9. john

    It benefits the extremes. Remember, many (or most) people on the lower end don't even pay any federal taxes. We have a progressive system and if the rich don't take advantage of loopholes, they pay a very high rate of taxation with all taxes included. It's the loopholes that need to be fixed and include everyone over poverty in taxation. Do not raise rates! We need to promote hard work for upper economic mobility, that is the american dream and incentives people to take risks, open businesses & work harder. Also, our corporate tax rate is now the highest in the world, which drives businesses & jobs away.

    April 17, 2012 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  10. NukeTim

    Consumption tax.

    Enough said....

    April 17, 2012 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  11. Tony Robison

    How many of the 68% are in the category of the 49% that don't pay any taxes? I'm less worried about the 1% than I'm worried about the welfare state of our economy that doesn't contribute at all! Always interesting that people without any skin in the game always have an opinion.

    April 17, 2012 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  12. Les

    Almost half of the country doesn't even pay income taxes so they shouldn't get to be part of the poll. If you're paying zero, it's not fair to say someone else isn't paying enough. That said, we should go to the "fair tax" and eliminate personal income taxes altogether.

    April 17, 2012 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  13. john

    Also, people pay 15% on investments (ie Mitt Romney). That money has already been taxed. Then the money is at risk of loss. The rate is set low to encourage private investment in Businesses. That is different than employment income tax.

    April 17, 2012 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  14. Scott

    For those you that think the tax system is unfair please return your tax refund check back to the Federal Government.

    April 17, 2012 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  15. Fair Taxes

    72%, nearly three-quarters, of Americans are in FAVOR of raising taxes on the rich, but Republicans STILL oppose it.

    It is clear that the GOP only cares about the "will of the people" when those "people" are rich.

    April 17, 2012 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  16. Anonymous

    Most individuals who are "wealthy" have earned it by working hard – either by getting educated; building a succesful business; or whatever. Why should someone who works hard to be successful have to give a third of it away to those who only want a handout? We have too many able-body people taking advantage of welfare. Limit welfare to those who really need it and get the "lazy's" off their butt and get a job.

    April 17, 2012 09:08 am at 9:08 am |

    Who cares if the tax system favors the wealth?

    They are the job creators!!!

    Why would we want to hurt their ability to create all these wonderful jobs?

    ** ENDS SARCASM **

    The sad thing is, a lot of people still buy into that argument.

    April 17, 2012 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  18. sqeptiq

    Yet half of those who say that the tax system unfairly favors the rich will vote for the Republicans who want to reduce taxes on the rich even more. Go figure.

    April 17, 2012 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  19. Four and The Door

    Obama just wants more. That's all. More to spend. It doesn't matter who or where it comes from. But It's more fun to talk about fast trains and new bureaucracies than managing the $trillions in federal taxes we already pay. We can do better. And it is very easy to see how.

    Romney/ Ryan 2012

    April 17, 2012 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  20. speavey

    Of course it does. The wealthy 1% have vested interests to keep it this way. They have lobbyists that pay a lot of money so that they don't have to pay their fare share like everyone else. Greed is a crippling disease. 69% of Americans... this isn't some republican/democrat issue, this is common sense.

    April 17, 2012 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  21. Joe

    The GOP are greedy. They'd rather have themselves in good shape and let the rest of us fall and try to carry the burden of this country! Such an honorable organization- NOT!!!!!

    April 17, 2012 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  22. Ron

    One of the main reasons some wealthy individuals wind up paying a lower effective tax rate is they invest in municipal bonds, which are not taxed at the federal level, or the state level if they live in that state. Muni bonds have low interest yields but, since they are tax free, their effective yield is much higher for someone in a high bracket. This benefits the municipalities, since they pay lower interest rates, and lowers property taxes for everybody.

    April 17, 2012 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  23. I Pay My Fair Share - Do You?

    So answer me this – 50% of households pay NO FEDERAL INCOME TAX but 68% of respondents say the tax code favors the wealthy? Does that make any sense? No – as usual the uneducated citizens of our country follow our fearless leader like sheep with no brains. Our country is doomed.

    April 17, 2012 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  24. AceRyder

    Poll: Most Americans say that the government squanders our money, is growing daily, and has a massive spending problem that can never, ever be solved through revenue increases.

    We feel better blaming the rich for not paying their "share," but in reality taxing them more won't be enough, then they'll come after YOUR/MY money.

    April 17, 2012 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  25. Rjones

    I'm sure that most, if not all, of the people who think the tax code favors the "rich" are the ones who pay no taxes at all. Do the math...almost 50% of Americans pay no taxes; 66% think the code favors the rich. The bottom line is that the democracy experiment in this country is over when the majority of the electorate decides they can use their vote to take money and assets away from others and therby line their own pockets.

    April 17, 2012 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
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