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. Mamaboats

    And yet, what are the Americans doing about it? You have to let your congressmen/women know that you are not happy about the situation. Republican or Democrat...stand up...good grief, the IRS is going after people for chump change and yet ignoring the fact that the rich pay little, companies are sending jobs and money overseas and the cost of the nation is on the "middle class"...c'mon folks, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out no matter what your political party is...tell your Congressmen/women!!

    April 17, 2012 07:50 am at 7:50 am |
  2. John R

    Percentages are deceiving. This is 6th grade math. If I make $1,000,000 but I spend $800,000 (salaries and such) to make it, then I only made $200,000. $24,000 in taxes would be 12%.
    But the libs want you to think that I made $1,000,000 and only paid 2.4% in taxes.
    If you the people are not smart enough to understand this, then as a nation we are doomed to failure due to stupidity.

    April 17, 2012 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  3. TJeff1776

    Tax talk reminds one of a Mark Twain slogan about the weather..."everybody talks about it, BUT nobody does anything about it"
    We are dealing with a congress wherein nearly ALL are paid off. AND the sad part IS- everybody knows it, and the congress knows everybody knows it BUT are past the "shame" state. In other words, they don't give a RA because they have the propaganda tools to make the American people vote against their own best interest.

    April 17, 2012 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  4. 11 blade

    Such a stupid article since significantly more than 2/3 of general population is not wealthy. These statistics have no merit. Likely close to 100% of wealthy would think they are taxed too much.

    April 17, 2012 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  5. who cares

    Why don't they just poll people who actually pay taxes? Skip those who don't contribute a thing to the Federal coffers.

    April 17, 2012 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  6. runswithbeer

    It's not my tax rate it's my PAY RATE. My Employer makes more money on my work than I DO and I'm a contractor for the government. Then I pay 15% of what's left to the Oil companies; 20% to health insurance; 40% Rent; 24% TAXES; YEP you get the picture. On a house hold income of $44k ain't any thing left at the end of the month. And YES I BLAME REPUBLICANS. Luckily my cars are paid for..... they're 15 years old.

    April 17, 2012 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  7. 11 blade

    I would be interested in seeing a poll that would question whether these same people even know how much the wealthy are taxed...

    April 17, 2012 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  8. Guest

    Since only half pay any taxes, I would say that can't be true. The top 10% pay 70% of the tax burden. and look at how Washington wastes money. They don't need not one red cent more.

    April 17, 2012 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  9. Jason

    This system is favors the not just the wealthy but the wealthiest people on the planet. You have people who can generate 40 million in income in just capital gains, and pay only 15 % on that 40 million. And even if they receive the funds and pay income tax they would only have to pay 35%. Now that sounds a lot but is unfair to people who make a little less the 400,000 a year who have to pay the same amount.

    April 17, 2012 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  10. JAB62

    Most Americans say tax system favors wealthy. No way! Really?
    That's only because it does.

    April 17, 2012 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
  11. Michael J. McCrystal

    Just shows how little the American Public actually knows! Yes, the rich have ridiculous tax deductions which reduce their effective rate of taxation. Funny, you did a story the other day of how President Obama took full advantage of just those exemptions (oops). The faux irony of it all. The true problem is the bottom 50% pay nothing, zip, nada and the top 10% pay 85% of all taxes. Thank God for the rich or no one would pay any tax at all. Yeah I want everyone to pay their fair share so Barack tell me when are the poor going to pay their fair share? (not that I expect you or CNN to answer that).

    Okay the solution is simple throw out the progresive tax code and all DEDUCTIONS and CREDITS including the Earned Income Credit. Create either a completely flat tax (everyone pays the same rate) or a moderately progressive rate (much lower numbers) without any deductions (including homeowners) whatever. Note with a flat tax the only way the government can make greater revenue is if you the public but especially the lower half make more money. Higher taxes on the rich mean nothing, higher income for the poor and middle class increase tax collections. See the last half of the 1980's and the last half of the 1990's.

    April 17, 2012 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
  12. Bob

    Waaaah – someone worked harder than me, so they make more money than I do, and they are smarter than me, so they also get to keep more – waaah

    April 17, 2012 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
  13. carly

    What a surprise. The only people who still can't see the light are the GOPers in congress. and this is why they must be voted out in November. They are on the wrong side of every issue unless you are in the top 1%.

    April 17, 2012 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
  14. Frank Peters

    Interesting when the TPC (Tax Policy Center) released a study that 53% of households pay no federal income tax. There must be a number of people who arent even aware they don't pay any income tax.

    April 17, 2012 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
  15. Dave from GA

    That is what Warren Buffet is trying to say.

    April 17, 2012 07:58 am at 7:58 am |
  16. drake remoray

    As a republican, I have to say, I think my part has it all wrong. Let's tax the rich for crying out loud. This red guy is voting Obama in November!

    April 17, 2012 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  17. Steve

    I would like to see a better income and cross reference to other demographics. As an example, what % of the 68% make more than 250K. The same goes for any discussion around unemployment, show more detailed analysis as the which areas are suffering and which are not.

    Aggregate numbers like these polls provide an aggregate picture, but not alot of information for inteeligent discussion.

    April 17, 2012 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  18. Ed1

    You are wrong it favors those people who invest in our country and take a risk that we are not willing to take.

    If you tax everybody at 100% of their gains and earned income we couldn't even put a dent in our debt. You are only being told half the story when it come to taxes. Look at how many don't pay taxes at all about 45% of us and it's not the rich but the people who continue to have their hands out for more money without working for it. Why do we continue to pay for welfare when most mothers will have many babies and don't even get child support but you want my tax dollars to pay for them because you just don't care you are the bread winner in your family.

    Get up off your dead butts and get a job the problem is our liberal government will pay you more money to stay at home and have more babies so you don't have to work.

    We have to stop spending what we don't have and reward the people who do pay taxes and yes that would be the rich they pay more taxes than any other class of people by far.

    If you want fair taxes throw all the people out in Washington and start over with new tax codes and stop letting the government from running our business shoe me one part of government that makes money and we will keep that one good luck.

    April 17, 2012 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
  19. 2tor

    Most people can't do 1040ez, what would most people know about the tax system. Also, most people don't pay taxes, and most of those that do, get it all back. What do most people know about our taz system.

    April 17, 2012 08:02 am at 8:02 am |
  20. Gabbo

    What idiocy – I'm sure that the liberal 47%ers who pay NO federal taxes are very upset with their well-heeled suga daddies !

    April 17, 2012 08:02 am at 8:02 am |
  21. Beezy

    sorry had to do it. look people dont get rich by being stupid. yes the rich should pay their fair share. but lets worry about the illegals first and make them pay their fair share. they are an actual drain on our system. the rich contribute. not celebrity rich but business rich i mean

    April 17, 2012 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
  22. Evn

    Working couple 2011 – one W-2 one self-employed: $134,656 AGI

    Taxes paid throughout year: $11,518 property tax; $2,063 medicare; $6634.32 social security; $166.18 unemployment taxes; $56 replacement tax; $6,361 sales, gas, liquor & utility taxes; $3,316 state income tax; $14,489 federal income tax.

    Total 2011 taxes relative to AGI: 33.12%

    When 1/3 of every dollar goes to the King, you are over taxed.

    April 17, 2012 08:05 am at 8:05 am |
  23. Tired of Silly1

    Most Americans are dumb as a box of rocks. The much-reviled 1% pays nearly half of all collected tax in this country. 48% of Americans pay NO tax. Let's have THEM pay their "fair share" before we punish the successful for being successful. Alternatively, let's have the 1% pay their actual fair share......1%.

    April 17, 2012 08:07 am at 8:07 am |
  24. Tom

    As part of the propaganda used to get the 16th amendment passed in 1913 during the Wilson administration, the proponents of it claimed that they would use it in order to "tax the fat boys and spread it out thin". How's that worked out during the last 100 years? In fact, there's no way that the "fat boys" are going to allow themselves to get soaked. They will always move their money around (even to foreign havens) and you won't get your hands on it. That's how they got "fat" and stay "fat". The whole plan of implementation would eventually be used in order to heap as much of the burden as possible onto the backs of the middle and lower class workers. "Tax the corporations" they exclaimed, but they failed to mention that the corporations are legal creatures of the state. They exist at the behest and permission of the state and taxes paid by them are simply operating costs that are passed through directly to consumers, who actually wind up paying the taxes in the form of higher costs for goods and services. As long as there is a 16th amendment and a personal income tax, there will never be and can never be "fairness" in the tax code. Any attempt to bring about such "fairness" through changes to the income tax code will fail, just as it has always failed.

    April 17, 2012 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  25. nalda

    Pure Propaganda! If CNN and other news outlets would do their jobs and spell out who pays the taxes Americans will see who carries the tax burden. It is a complete falsehood that the "middle class" carries the tax burden considering roughly 47% pay NO federal income taxes.

    April 17, 2012 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
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