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. JfromBoston

    I thought I heard from other reports that about 40% of the American do not pay taxes. So how can this article claim most people think the tax system favor the Rich. I would at least think that 40% of the people would at least think they are favored beceause they don't pay anything at all.

    April 17, 2012 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  2. bspurloc

    "1,015 adult Americans, including 910 registered voters" these are all the same people from the last poll

    April 17, 2012 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  3. mark

    Just because they think that doesn't mean it's true. Most people blame the wealthy for their own lack of success.

    April 17, 2012 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  4. Chris

    I find the results of the poll interesting when you consider close to 40% of americans paid no income taxes the past few years. It's hard to say you pay too much in income tax when it's 0.

    April 17, 2012 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  5. woodie

    Basically, middle class thinks they are being cheated and I agree. Everyone should pay equally. You play, you pay. Rich or poor. I don't care. You all pay what I pay. That's fair.

    April 17, 2012 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  6. W.G.

    Sure it benefits the rich ! What do you think Republicans were doing when the bush´s were in office
    and when republicans controlled both houses ? Being patriot and worrying about the wars they sent
    our children out to die for? The Republicans and their RICH Lobbiest were changing the rules ! To
    benefit themselves and put the burden on the back of the common man ! Quit listening to FOX
    and Rush and all those republican creeps ! . If they say they´re conservative you can bet it´s bad for YOU !

    April 17, 2012 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  7. taxedmore

    71 million households (47% of tax filers in 2010) did not pay federal income taxes primarily because of EITC and the Child Tax Credit.
    How can a tax system be called "fair" when 47% of households are getting a free ride on the backs of the 53% who are paying income tax? What part of that is sustainable? Do we really want a society where half the people have to be carried by the other half? That is neither freedom nor equality. What is fair about that? The Child Tax Credit and the EITC (Nearly 1 in 5 households now receive the credit — about 28 million filers in the 2010 tax year)are totally means tested and therefore are pure welfare.

    April 17, 2012 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  8. ah292801

    The tax system really doesn't favor the wealthy. How many people who are not wealthy get all of their tax returned when they file? Is that fair? I'll support raising taxes on millionaires so long as people who make less give up their free ride.

    April 17, 2012 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  9. pointless1

    It's not about a feeling, it's about simple FACTS.

    April 17, 2012 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  10. 1776partisan

    when will the media and politicians get the point? Americans will rally to meet any challenge the world puts before us. the challenge we face is not who will pay more taxes the challenge is getting Washington to stop spending more money than we have. ask the Greeks what happens when you don't watch the purse strings. the economic future proposed by both sides are ridiculous shams, democrats and republicans both know the plans they put forth will not work,they only want to make the other side look like they ether don't care or don't

    April 17, 2012 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  11. Realist

    The reality is that the top 20% of wage earners contribute more than 80% of gross federal tax receipts. That means that the vast majority of Americans are getting a free ride on the backs of "the wealthy". It's just this kind of uninformed public opinion that creates chaos and further stupidity, which is sad, given that 2 minutes online with and google can provide actual facts.

    April 17, 2012 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  12. Jason

    "Most Americans say tax system favors wealthy", ummmmm that is because it does... Why conduct a poll on this? Money well spent...

    April 17, 2012 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  13. J. M.

    Hello? My best guess would be that 49% who don't pay taxes are getting the most benefit. Who took the poll?

    April 17, 2012 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  14. wisiconsin101

    Insightful poll – NOT. People have always felt this way even if it is or isn't true that the system favors the wealthy. Of the 100%, 46% do not pay tax. Of the remaining 54%, 10% pay 70% of all collected tax revenue. So while a few wealthy may pay a lower % then you or I, they still pay a higher % of the total tax collected. However, we need serious tax reform to make the system simpler with less loopholes and deductions. We also need gov spending reductions and gov (public union) employee pension/benefit reforms

    April 17, 2012 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  15. woodie

    Everyone should pay the same whether rich or poor. You play, you pay. Anything less is unfair to me. EVERYONE SHOULD PAY the SAME.

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

    47% of "tax payers" pay no federal income tax at all. How does the system favor the wealthy?

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

    it doesn't take much review of the history of taxes to learn how quickly the practice became distorted in favor of the rich. stop all the escape routes and charge everyone 10% period. We would be solvent as a nation in less than two years.

    April 17, 2012 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  18. 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 hard earned money, and year after year we are told that the state or the feds are "going broke". It's demoralizing.

    April 17, 2012 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  19. Peter Grenader

    Poll: CNN 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 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  20. paul

    McDonalds and Burger King have built mega empires on "what most americans think", does that make the food good for you? The problem is that "most americans" get their information from the liberal media cabal. Obama paid only 20% of his income in taxes. Is that b/c the system favors people like him? OR, is it b/c he gave 20% of income to charity? The system favors the lower taxes for the wealthy ONLY when they give a large amount to charity.

    April 17, 2012 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  21. Benjamin

    The liberal media will be covering this issue until election day because it is the only thing they have to try and make people dislike Mitt Romney. He made a lot of money! Good. Would you rather have a guy who had to ask his friend to help him buy his house and then that friend end up in prison for fraud?

    April 17, 2012 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  22. S Brown

    That's a pretty impressive statistic since almost half of all US households pay no Federal income tax.

    April 17, 2012 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  23. A Poor Person With a Brain

    The tax system favors the 40% of Americans that DON"T pay tax. That's not the wealthy, that's middle and lower class Americans. You could take 100% of the wealth of the top 1% and it would barely make a dent in our debt. Do some research folks and stop listening to the president's retoric. The Buffet Tax Rule is STUPID!

    April 17, 2012 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  24. Dustie

    Of course the tax system favors the rich. I totally disagree with Republicans on this issue, but plan to vote for the Republican candidate anyway because I don't trust Obama with any of his foreign or domestic policies. I notice that he took advantage of every single tax break that he could, including "giving the kids $48,000". Meaningless talk from Obama as usual. We need tax reform, and both Dems and Republicans should be working on that , as well as looking very closely at the waste and inappropriate behavior of US bureaucrats -GSA isn't the only agency with problems.

    April 17, 2012 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  25. Tom

    The survey shoud have been with "Taxpayers", not a pool of taxpayers and non-taxpayers. CNN, do your home work. Nearly 1/2 of us do not pay taxes. If I were in that group, you bet I would want more taxes on the taxpayers.
    It is simple. A no-taxpayer knows that if goverment runs out of payers, it will have to turn on non-payers for taxes.
    Ms. Thacher was correct, socialism is wonderful until you run out of money.

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