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. Christian

    30% for me at 100k a year compared to 14.9% for Romney at how many million a year, the system does not favor the rich it screws the middle class.

    April 17, 2012 07:15 am at 7:15 am |
  2. Matt

    The real problem is the middle class no one wants to pay taxes... rich people make up a small percentage and they find loop holes poor people get their money back and don't really pay taxes, the middle class makes up the bulk of the tax revenue and we complain all day long but

    April 17, 2012 07:15 am at 7:15 am |
  3. WealthyPayOnly

    Since this is fact-based and evidenced by excessive greed, which is seriously injuring the nation, and many of us have witnessed extreme fraud by some that are not prosecuted for it – don't pay your taxes. Let the rich pay.

    The poor are being grossly oppressed, not merely oppressed.

    Such intent to harm fellow citizens hasn't been seen in this country for quite some time. It is beyond shocking.

    If the Warren Buffetts are sincere and loyal to the United States, then why are they forcing so many patriotic Americans into abject poverty.

    Don't pay.
    Let the rich pay our taxes since they robbed most of our families.
    That's my advice for the day.

    This is not the Boston Tea Party.
    This is defending our nation from attrition.

    April 17, 2012 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  4. TomCom

    When the middle class pays 20 to 30 cents on every dollar earned. So should everyone else including business or corps.

    April 17, 2012 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  5. PAPilot

    And there you have it folks. Proof that most Americans are idiots. How can a tax system favor the wealthy when the wealthy pay 80% of all of the individual income taxes collected? Seriously, people. Half of all Americans pay no tax at all, which means they don't care one iota about runaway government spending, because it does not affect them. We are at the point in our history when a majority of voters, who do not pay a dime into the system, can control the spending of that system, and who benefits from it.

    They will simply vote themselves largesse from the public treasury, until the system collapses under its own weight, as it did in Rome, and as it is doing now in Europe.

    April 17, 2012 07:18 am at 7:18 am |
  6. mnesbitt

    Can you think one one thing that doesn't favor the rich?

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

    It doesn't really matter what the polls say, the Republicans will continue to serve their corporate and millionaire masters by obstructing, obstructing, obstructing any effort to follow the will of the people on this matter. It's no mystery that the majority of the funds supporting the Republican party come from a relatively few very wealthy donors as opposed to the Obama campaign which has been receiving most of it's financial support from large numbers of small donors.

    The Republicans fully intend to continue to join arms with a very wealthy minority in order to create a Congressional and Corporate Aristocratic ruling class imposing it's will on the rest of the country. Forty six percentage of our country's congressmen are millionaires—some in the range of hundreds of millions. This is not a country by the people for the people. This is a country of the wealthy for the wealthy . . . don't expect the "good old boys" to support changing that anytime soon . . .

    April 17, 2012 07:19 am at 7:19 am |
  8. midwest1234

    Since about 50% of Americans do not pay Federal income taxes, no wonder that 50% of Americans say that their taxes are "about right". This survey would be much more interesting if it correlated the responses to the amount of taxes that the respondents paid.

    April 17, 2012 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
  9. S. B. Stein E.B. NJ

    I believe that is accurate. It doesn't take much thinking about really to come to that conclusion. It takes a lot of money to hire lobbist to convince members of Congress to put in the loopholes. It also takes a lot of money to run for office which may have only the wealthy deciding the laws. If there was no need for money in order to run for office, then there would be more people with lower incomes (and better cross section of America) running for office. That would make the House more representative of the country.

    April 17, 2012 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  10. virginianvoter324

    The system favors the poor and the rich. The rich don't pay their share and the poor don't pay at all. So the middle class gets left holding the bag.

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

    Of course it favors wealthy...trickle down damnds it...the guiled age continues...such a joke

    April 17, 2012 07:23 am at 7:23 am |
  12. imputt

    Here is the problem. Mainstream media knows the tax system is set up to encourage investment. With wise investment comes good long lasting jobs and gains for the invester. With these gains comes money to spend in the economy and further job creation. Also with these gains comes addtional tax income for the government and jobs there. With these government jobs come people who want the cycle continued and people who hate success and want to take more to further the hate. Mainstream media feeds on the hate and writes this kind of Balloney

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

    "CNN/ORC poll: Most Americans say tax system favors wealthy"

    And they believe that grass if often green and the moon is round. Not really any revelation here. The only surprise is how passive and apathetic the average middle class American is about it. Too lazy to stand up for their rights.

    April 17, 2012 07:23 am at 7:23 am |
  14. fred ca

    It is an outrage how little the wealthy pay. Come on now people...those in the upper 5 percent of earnings pay only 55 percent of the tax bill. It forces the 50 percent of lower earning taxpayers to pay 2.5 percent of the tax bill. We all know the 30 percent tax min that obama wants is just a band-aid (it only covers the debt for a few hours). Let's be real. Tax them at 100 percent. That will cover the debt for darn near a week. And it will show just how fair we can be.

    April 17, 2012 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
  15. Mike

    In before the freepers start complaining that it's all Obama's fault!

    April 17, 2012 07:27 am at 7:27 am |
  16. Brian

    42% of all Americans pay 0 FICA and the top 10% of American income earners pay 60-70% of the taxes in the US. I agree the tax system is unfair but it sure isn't slated to help the rich at the expense of the poor. You can't pay less than 0

    April 17, 2012 07:27 am at 7:27 am |
  17. Go Ron Go !

    The Tax system doesn't favor the wealthy! It favors the Government! A government that simply can not live within it's means. A government that wastes money, one that is invovled in too many things that is simply none of the Government's business.

    April 17, 2012 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  18. FL

    Uh, they are not 'rich' Americans, they are the 'job creators' that have repeatedly failed to create jobs – even after deep and repeated rounds of tax cuts and special loopholes for years – just like the tax loophole that Mitt Romney enjoys called 'Carried Interest' that allows him to treat what is really basic compensation for managing funds – and where he doesn't have to risk any of his own money nor are the gains already taxed (which is why he refuses to release his past years of tax returns or it will show this). I think getting rich is great and admirable – but not when its done using immoral means, even if legal.

    April 17, 2012 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  19. Bob

    This is interesting. Almost half of all federal tax filers pay no federal income tax at all. If 68% believe that the tax system favors the wealthy, then some people who pay no taxes at all are complaining that the "rich" don't pay enough. Sadly, it appears that Obama's class warfare rhetoric is working.

    April 17, 2012 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  20. Skipjack

    Probably not a coincidence that 50% of people think income taxes are right because about 47% of people don't pay income taxes. Also, most Americans have no idea the difference between a payroll tax and an income tax. This poll shows if anything how biased CNN is and how stupid we are.

    April 17, 2012 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  21. Bordolover

    Favors the wealthy? Are you kidding me? 47% of the country pays little to no Federal Tax and a tremendous number of them get a net refund due to "credits". So, until I get a net refund, I don't see how the system favors wealthy unless you are merely attempting to create a divide and split Americans into separate classes. We are all Americans we live and in what manner is entirely up to each person...

    April 17, 2012 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  22. Seattle Sue

    You would have to be really stupid or dead to think think the wealthy are not favoured for taxes. Mitt Romney is a perfect example: 14 percent tax on income of 21 million.

    April 17, 2012 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  23. idb

    Jealousy is a hard thing to cope with.

    April 17, 2012 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  24. Coigne

    Our legislators have rigged the system to benefit themselves and their friends. It takes lots of money to get elected and stay in office. Our legislators can vote to give themselves a pay hike and they can vote to give themselves a tax cut. They can vote subsidies for wealthy corporations that contribute to their election campaigns. They profit and their friends profit and the money is free because it comes from taxes that they can manipulate to favor themselves and their friends. They call this the American Way. Naturally they resent and oppose Socialist programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, Unemployment Insurance, food stamps, etc. Socialism, as we all know, is unAmerican.

    April 17, 2012 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  25. chuck

    What's an ordinary worker? Where is the link to the details of the survey? Most people don't pay Income taxes. Do they think their taxes are too high.

    April 17, 2012 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
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