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. Zious

    Most Americans are fools to complain, for they are the ones who put those lawmakers in congress despite their open outcry of those policies that would make the rich richer.

    April 17, 2012 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
  2. Scott S.

    It does. Overwhelmingly. It has for a decade. That's not just based on rates, that includes all the loopholes, tax breaks.

    April 17, 2012 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
  3. John

    And as long as the Republican stay In Control of the Congress or the Senate,they will make sure that the tax system to favors the WEALTHY. And they will take everything from the OLD AND THE POOR THAT THEY CAN.

    April 17, 2012 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
  4. NJBob

    Finally a CNN article that is not entirely dismissive of the middle class. One day perhaps people in the middle class will realize that the "job creator" myth was a cruel joke played on them by the wealthy, and that the wealthy are nothing but parasites sucking the lifeblood out of this country.

    April 17, 2012 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
  5. John Doe

    The income tax system is a disaster for working Americans. By taxing earned income and much higher rates than unearned income, it punishes work and rewards wealth without work. It should be abolished and replaced by a system that taxes net wealth instead of income. Besides what do we get back from the enormous sums of money sent to the federal government? Just wars without end and Wall Street bailouts.

    April 17, 2012 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  6. mark

    Taxes are not a rich or poor system, it is one that we freely give conctrol to the goverment and yes it works for wealthy people more because they are either educated enough or have a good team of people who know the loopholes well. So being rich has its advantages. The truth is the rich do pay more taxes than the average person when you look at the full scheme of things, the only problem is that most people are not fortuate to be rich. The GOP just voted down the Buffett Rule, do you know why? to protect the rich, .If the top 1 percent of the wealthy pull their money out of banks and investments what would really happen to the economy as a whole? Taxes, wealth, and poverty is constant of life. If the shoe was on the other foot and you were wealthy, you would do the same thing PROTECT YOUR VERY OWN INTEREST......

    April 17, 2012 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  7. JimfromBham

    I've started looking at my taxes in the sense of: How much value am I getting for my investment? After looking at it this way for a few years, I have realized that we are not getting nearly the value of our tax payments.

    April 17, 2012 07:41 am at 7:41 am |
  8. Emmy Skaddittle

    so the republicans blocking the buffet rule will not help the republicans in the up coming election

    April 17, 2012 07:41 am at 7:41 am |
  9. bob_lawbla

    CNN can certainly be counted on for their creative pre-election propaganda.

    April 17, 2012 07:41 am at 7:41 am |
  10. roy

    The current tax system definitely favors the wealthy not the working class merican.

    April 17, 2012 07:41 am at 7:41 am |
  11. JBinghampton

    " more than two-thirds of Americans believe the revenue system benefits the wealthy while being unfair to average workers." And the GOP holds up the The Buffet Rule. These GOP Jihadists are more and more out of touch with main stream Americans.

    April 17, 2012 07:42 am at 7:42 am |
  12. Tom

    The tax system favors the bottom 50% of citizens that pay no income taxes.

    April 17, 2012 07:42 am at 7:42 am |
  13. WWRRD

    When 50% of us don't pay any federal income tax it just makes me laugh how they think the tax code favors the rich. The people that get squeezed are those in the tops 15-30th percentile by income. They aren't truly "rich" but can't don't benefit from tax loopholes like lower rates for capital gains like the 1%'ers get.

    The other thing that strikes me as funny is that we undertax. Almost a third of our expenditures are paid with borrowed money. There would be a huge public outcry if we actually taxed enough to meet our obligations.

    The bottom 50% don't pay, and they get a lion's share of government services which are largely targeted at low income people. How is that unfair?

    I personally think we need to raise taxes and cut spending. I don't buy onto the whole job creator's agrument. The last 10 years with the Bush tax cuts in place have eliminated the validity of that argument. I hope those cuts just go away. I also don't buy into the we need a tax cut for the middle and lower class. If anything , everyone should pay some real amount of money in taxes. If you have no skin in the game, what incentive do you have to make sure it is used responsibly? Right now the 50% can basically just vote more and more spending for themselves and get other people to pay for it or simply borrow the money and have the country end up like Greece.

    April 17, 2012 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  14. Surfer George

    I think it would be fair to define the term wealthy for the purposes of my opinion:
    Wealthy have enough more money than everyone else to take advantage of tax options ONLY available to people with a certain level of "WEALTH."
    For example, anyone who could put together a down payment on a house gets a tax deduction for the interest they pay on their home loan. They may have a smaller monthly bill and more income than others, but they end up paying less because the law was written to favor them.Tax law favors investors by being lower than for ordinary "sweat of our brow" labor. The income from either/both has exactly the same buying power, dollar for dollar, but the "wealthy" have a tax advantage there.

    There are any number of additional tax advantages going to only those with enough wealth and/or income to take advantage of it.

    April 17, 2012 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  15. Balance Sheet

    If half of the people in this country don't pay income tax, doesn't the system favor the poor?

    April 17, 2012 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
  16. Harlon Katz

    So hard to believe – almost HALF of the people will be paying NOTHING for the federal income tax, and some of those will be getting more back than they even put it. I wonder if some of them think this is "unfair" – do they want MORE? I can imagine what these results would be IF they actually had to PAY something.

    April 17, 2012 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  17. EdR

    My 85 year old mother, who lives on a 23,000 a year state pension, who lived through the great depression, served her country in WWII, lost two brothers in that war, and has raised 5 very productive tax paying members of our society, has requested cash for her 85th birthday so she can afford to pay the IRS the $1,200 she owes. While billionaires pay 15% on their income... and we give away 10s of billions to oil companies? Its enough to make you sick. How anyone can vote republican is beyond me

    April 17, 2012 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  18. Bruce in VA

    This is really funny. In the 1990's, 6 in 10 said their taxes are too high. Now it is in the high 40's (percent). Well, maybe in the 1990's, about 6 in 10 people actually paid taxes. Today, about 5 in 10. So it seems to be tracking.

    April 17, 2012 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  19. gonzodon

    What Bozo's Americans are. Don't confuse them with the truth, they've already made up their minds.

    When 46% pay ZERO federal income tax, and the average tax rate for thosewho do is 14%, that means the wealthy are carrying their fair share. I think it's time the deadbeats who pay ZERO get some skin in the game.

    Enought income redistribution. TIme for a flat tax.

    April 17, 2012 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
  20. SixDegrees

    Any tax increase on "the wealthy" will produce little or no additional tax revenue. It will, however, pave the way to raising taxes on the middle class after placating them with the illusion of "punishing the rich".

    April 17, 2012 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
  21. kevin

    Need a new poll. 90 percent of americans do not understand the tax code and do not know any rich people and have no clue of what they pay

    April 17, 2012 07:47 am at 7:47 am |
  22. Salsa Rider

    I think the tax system favors the poor and targets the middle class.

    April 17, 2012 07:47 am at 7:47 am |
  23. Clay

    Unbelieveable. What about the 46% of Americans who pay NO federal income tax....many of who actually get a "refund".

    April 17, 2012 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
  24. Harsh Realities

    50% of US households don't pay any federal income taxes. I wonder what type of answers this 50% gave.

    April 17, 2012 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
  25. IndyNC

    hear that loud sudden thunk?
    That's a million americians doing "DUH!" at the same time when reading this headline.
    What's ironic is the ones who think their taxes are too high are often the ones who are making more money. The rest of us who might just have to RELY on those social nets if the assault against the middle class goes unabated don't see it as too bad because we just might need to RELY on those services one day.

    April 17, 2012 07:50 am at 7:50 am |
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