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. bamagrad03

    Funny, I wonder how many of those Americans polled are in bottom 50% who pay 2.25% of the taxes, while the top 10% pay 70% of them.

    April 17, 2012 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  2. Roger

    But Boehner said that cutting the taxes for the rich will cost Amercan jobs. Wanna hear another real corker?

    April 17, 2012 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  3. Rob Menot

    It's a progressive tax. The more you make the more you pay. Don't forget, when you see someone rich like Romney paying 16%, it's because he's paying long term capital gains on an investment. Before he could invest that money he paid a regular income tax of around 30%. In other words, he paid more in taxes than you. You're an idiot if you think the tax system favors the rich. It's true.

    April 17, 2012 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  4. chuckb

    Yes, and Republicans want to make it more favorable for the rich.

    April 17, 2012 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  5. NoBozo

    Even if you tax the he ll out of the people that hire it still wouldnt make a dent in the economy. This is just another distraction...Obama has been a total failure...a politician that never had any experience has to go.

    April 17, 2012 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  6. Dave Anders

    Most Americans know that CNN says only what they consider will benefit Barack Obama, no matter how many lies are told.

    April 17, 2012 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  7. Joe

    Who are these people in these surveys, I've never heard of anyone I know that was included in a survery

    April 17, 2012 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  8. bamagrad03

    Funny, I wonder who many of those Americans polled are in the bottom 50% – paying 2.25% of the taxes – while the top 10% pay 70% of all the taxes. I wonder how many of the people who pay NO taxes are whining about fairness and how things favor the wealthy. If somebody else is picking up your tab, don't complain about fairness.

    April 17, 2012 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  9. HaHa

    Look at that, the half of Americans who pay no taxes at all, think their taxes are just about right. Who is John Galt?

    April 17, 2012 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  10. vote the Tea Party OUT in 2012

    Mitt Romney and the Republicans will say that you're just jealous so I don't expect any kind of tax reform to be done soon.

    April 17, 2012 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  11. ruemorgue

    Let's hear the 1 % 2012 Overture crescendo: WHINE, WINE, WHINE, WINE, WHINE, WINE !!

    April 17, 2012 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  12. JuneCleaversBeaver

    When the bottom 47% pay NO taxes this isn't a problem with the top wage earners not paying enough.

    April 17, 2012 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  13. NoBozo

    The Socialist experiment is over. The blame game is over. Time to take back our country. No Obama!!

    April 17, 2012 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  14. Chedar

    The rich don't want to pay their fair share. But they expect the poor to defend their money and protect their money. Does that answer those who whine about how hard the rich make their money and they deserve it? You guys that defend the rich have some freakin mind.

    April 17, 2012 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  15. alumplus

    I think it's criminal that when you live entirely by SS you still have to pay taxes on that penitence, Yes, the tax laws favor the rich because the rich make the laws.

    April 17, 2012 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  16. Travis

    I don't feel my taxes are too high, I know my taxes are too high. 1/3 of all the money I make in my life will go to the gov't? That's absurd. I don't mind paying my fair share, but the key word is fair. What is fair now?

    April 17, 2012 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  17. Alina1

    So was a public option popular among Americans. Did it go anywhere? Peoples opinions for GOP nothing but an empty sound. Lobbyist ARE THE PEOPLE.

    April 17, 2012 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  18. Marcia Greenwood, IN

    And why wouldn't the tax system favor the rich-they bought their own Republican party-Unfortunately on 35,000 a year I cannot do the same-

    April 17, 2012 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  19. derriquestuckey

    If it's a CNN poll, it means most liberals think this, not most Americans. The wealthy have been paying 30-40% for as long as I can remember. Do you know why? Most of their 'wealth' comes from investment returns. This is yet another gimmick, geared at distracting Americans from the real and very much unfinished issues at stake.

    April 17, 2012 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  20. Art Froelich

    Well, duh it favors the wealthy. Who do you think passes the laws regarding taxes? It's the politicians and other wealthy individuals who decide what the tax rates are. The people responsible for creating tax rates and cuts are not those who are in the middle class. To think they would actually pass legislation that would negatively affect their paychecks is absurd in their opinions. Seriously, CNN you had to take a poll to figure this one out?

    April 17, 2012 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  21. Mike Carter

    If that was the case, Why do more than 50% of American do not pay Federal tax?

    April 17, 2012 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  22. ralph

    Poll shows that most people are not well versed on the topics being polled.

    April 17, 2012 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  23. P

    What a joke, how can the tax system favor the rich when half of america dosen't pay income tax, seems that they are being shown favortisim not the rich. Before you raise taxes on everyone else, lets talk about all those that dont pay putting up 1 dollar towards taxes, just one. thats how we start with paying their FAIR SHARE!

    April 17, 2012 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  24. James

    Favors the wealthy????

    Those Evil Rich:


    Top 1% pay 38.02% of all income taxes

    Top 5% pay 58.72% of all income taxes

    Top 10% pay 69.94% of all income taxes

    Top 25% pay 86.34% of all income taxes

    Top 50% pay 97.30% of all income tax


    Notice that half the people that enjoy the benefits of America and its infrastructure and protection pay no income tax or get the "earned income credit" which is basically a welfare check....

    BTW, when the so called Bush tax cuts go, so will the increases in the "earned income credit" which were a part of the Bush tax cuts.. In other words scrapping those tax cuts will effect everybody including the low wage earners...
    Yes the Bush tax cuts were "across the board" tax cuts...

    April 17, 2012 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  25. John

    99% is more like it

    April 17, 2012 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
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