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. TJ

    It's not just a tax system......but a whole political party. The Republicans are hell bent on handing over every cent to billionaires, if they could.

    April 17, 2012 06:37 am at 6:37 am |
  2. EdSantaFe

    The tax codes are unfair. Even in retirement and living on small pensions I have to pay TEN PERCENT in federal taxes. It's ridiculous. For those of us living solely on pension that total under $30,000 there should be no federal income tax. I've already paid my share over the last 45 years.

    April 17, 2012 06:38 am at 6:38 am |
  3. Jakell

    This shows how ignorant the American people are about the tax code. In fact, the wealthy, particularly those whose wealth comes from a salary, pay a far greater portion of their income in federal taxes. For those earning more than about $350K per year the tax is about 35% of the income above that amount. Such people generally pay an effective tax rate in excess of 20%. Middle income people, those earning from $40K to $70K pay an effective tax rate somewhere below 10%, usually 3% to 5%. Most people earning below $40K typically pay nothing. I would say that the tax code actually favors the less well off.

    April 17, 2012 06:38 am at 6:38 am |
  4. Charlie

    What a dumb poll. Of course people think the other guy is not paying enough. I guarantee if you had a poll that said the lower 47% need to pay more in taxes that at least 47% would disagree.

    April 17, 2012 06:39 am at 6:39 am |
  5. Christian

    The problem is that too few people know the facts...the Bush cuts lowered taxes at the very bottom by 5 points by introducing a 10% bracket (33% reduction). There was also a reduction of 3 points for the former brackets of 28%, 31% and 36% and the top bracket dropped by a total of 4.6 points (all compaired to the brackets in 2000). Obviously, the spin on the left that the Bush tax cuts only benefit "millionairs and billionairs" is nothing by lies.

    April 17, 2012 06:40 am at 6:40 am |
  6. unowhoitsme

    Of course...this is why the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. We need ROBIN HOOD for President!

    April 17, 2012 06:41 am at 6:41 am |
  7. Biotechdev

    This story is the whole point of Obama's Buffet Rule. It raises 5 billion a year against Obama's trillion dollar deficits. It would take 200 years for the Buffet Rule to pay off ONE YEAR of Obama's deficit spending. Debt is now over GDP. And this is all Obama has to offer: Obama's deficits aew a TRILLION dollars a year. The Buffet Rule raises 5 billion a year. It would take 200 years for the Buffet Rule to payoff ONE year of Obama's deficits. This is nithing but an election year gimmick. And its all Obama has. He has proposed nothing else to address our massive debt

    April 17, 2012 06:41 am at 6:41 am |
  8. Biotechdev

    This story is the whole point of Obama's Buffet Rule. It raises 5 billion a year against Obama's trillion dollar deficits. It would take 200 years for the Buffet Rule to pay off ONE YEAR of Obama's deficit spending

    April 17, 2012 06:42 am at 6:42 am |
  9. Alex

    There are a few very wealthy that get favored treatment, like Mitt Riomney and pay a rate lower than the mere wealthy. But to say all wealthy get these unfair breaks is not true. I do believe the Bush tax cuts should be repealed for ALL, including the capital gains tax cuts. The loopholes for hedge fund managers and that weird compenstation Romney gets shold be closed. But this will still not come close to balancing the budget. We ALSO need to CUT spending significantly, like phasing out farm subsidies, cutting military spending, and streamlining government. The GSA looks to be a good place to start.

    April 17, 2012 06:42 am at 6:42 am |
  10. MIkeM

    The tax system favors lawyers and accountants. A large segment of our society earns its living figuring out the tax system and how to interpret it. They are the new priests (parasites) that intercede between us and the gods.

    April 17, 2012 06:42 am at 6:42 am |
  11. Drinnc

    Another example of the fallacy of polls. This one claims that most people think that the tax system favors the rich while in fact it defines "low income" and then exempts all in that group from any federal income tax. Polls can and do show what ever result the pollsters are looking for.

    April 17, 2012 06:42 am at 6:42 am |
  12. Bye Bye Republican Party: I HEAR your goose steps

    These statistics say 30% believe the richest 1% should have more favored tax privileges, perhaps paying no tax ever.

    These are the horsemen and pawns of the red queen.

    April 17, 2012 06:43 am at 6:43 am |
  13. vonxx

    When you don't get paid much ANY tax is to high... And then the rich cry about the taxes... Give me a break!

    April 17, 2012 06:43 am at 6:43 am |
  14. Michael Price

    Of course the tax system favors the wealthy... They are the ones who created it!

    April 17, 2012 06:45 am at 6:45 am |
  15. Guest

    but half don't pay taxes.

    April 17, 2012 06:46 am at 6:46 am |
  16. 1of99Percent

    Since it was created by, and constantly revised on behalf of the weathy, who would be surprised by this?

    April 17, 2012 06:46 am at 6:46 am |
  17. nummy

    Taxes too high or too low? Whatever, just sick and tired of seeing people who don't earn enough all year to pay any taxes get 7000-8000 dollar tax returns. Thats the reason many of them won't get a job, because they view these giant returns as part of their income! Fix the tax codes.

    April 17, 2012 06:47 am at 6:47 am |
  18. CommodoreD

    I want a rule that treats all taxpayers like Buffet (and Romney). How about no American pays an effective tax rate higher than that paid by the very wealthy (highest 1% in terms of AGI) in the previous tax year? Then force the Congress and White House to decide what federal services to cut. I am sure both the Pentagon and Medicare have programs that can be cut.

    April 17, 2012 06:48 am at 6:48 am |
  19. George

    That's because the Obama propoganda machine is working. And the press just goes along with it.

    April 17, 2012 06:49 am at 6:49 am |
  20. Rob

    47% of Americans pay no taxes ... I would hope they at least don;t think they pay too much in taxes!

    April 17, 2012 06:49 am at 6:49 am |
  21. Bryan

    LOL .. Those young ones saying its too high actually profit off the income taxes rather than having a net payout.. Yes the rich pay 15-20%.. but they have a net payout of millions.. LOL

    April 17, 2012 06:51 am at 6:51 am |
  22. justin opinion

    What "Most Americans" want, doesn't apply in our type of two-party democracy. Our type of democracy relies only on a candidate's ability to convince voters that their opponent is an evil tyrant who is out to destroy everything they care about.

    When having problems gets votes, solving problems becomes irrelevant.

    April 17, 2012 06:51 am at 6:51 am |
  23. GySgtG

    Most Americans are idiots. How can the Tax systems favor the wealthy when only 50% of Americans pay federal tax?

    you people want the rich to pay their fair share?. then pay you fair share and flat tax everyong 15%. no deductions or loopholes.
    but don't kid yourself, you don't really want fair. you want the rich to pay more, because you are jealous and because you are a failure in life, so the rich must be the reason you a failure. not the fact that you goofed off in school or didn't go to college or are just plain lazy.

    April 17, 2012 06:52 am at 6:52 am |
  24. Barry from Wisconsin

    Since most of us agree, isn't it time to vote out of office people who persist in defying the majority and continue to protect/favor the wealthy and very rich?

    April 17, 2012 06:53 am at 6:53 am |
  25. ATPMSD

    Those who believe the tax system favors the wealthy should remember that the top 25% pay 87% of the taxes in this country. Seems to me the system favors everyone but the wealthy who constantly get stuck footing the bill!

    April 17, 2012 06:56 am at 6:56 am |
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