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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McCain: I agree with Ann Romney

Filed under: CNN Poll Archive • Taxes
soundoff (310 Responses)
  1. watash60

    The system favors the wealthy because former/current politicians have put in rules to favor them in order to get their contributions.

    April 17, 2012 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  2. rplat

    Oh please, "most Americans" have no idea what the tax system is. And just who is saying this, the non-rich that are paying taxes or the 40% that pay no taxes?

    April 17, 2012 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  3. DW

    Only those who pay incomes taxes should actually participate in this poll. What a sham.

    April 17, 2012 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  4. J

    The majority of middleclass Americans feel that the tax laws benefit millionaires, so what do the Republican's do? They VOTE DOWN the Buffet rule! Remember this people when you cast your ballot in November!

    April 17, 2012 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  5. jay

    dont the pay the majority of taxes? aren't they ones that start small business and companies? is it true 47% of Americans don't pay income tax? Is that really fair?

    April 17, 2012 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  6. Tony

    Since there are more "average" Americans, of course the poll numbers are going to skew that direction.

    April 17, 2012 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  7. Mikey

    It does. Big time.

    April 17, 2012 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  8. taxedmore

    71 million households (47% of tax filers in 2010) did not pay federal income taxes primarily because of EITC and the Child Tax Credit.
    How can a tax system be called "fair" when 47% of households are getting a free ride on the backs of the 53% who are paying income tax? What part of that is sustainable? Do we really want a society where half the people have to be carried by the other half? That is neither freedom nor equality. What is fair about that? The Child Tax Credit and the EITC are totally means tested and therefore are pure welfare.

    April 17, 2012 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  9. Tony

    The tax code is unfair to the wealthy. The top 5% income earners pay OVER HALF of all taxes. And the bottom 50% pay a measly 2%. Anyone who is not rich should THANK a rich person for all of the government-sponsored benefits that they receive, because the poor/average person did not pay for them, the RICH person did.

    April 17, 2012 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  10. fred

    Depending on which report you read 47 to 51% of the people pay no taxes. I think the tax laws favor these people more than they favor the rich.

    April 17, 2012 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  11. scott

    That is absolutely true. Because the capitalist society works because it wants people to become rich thus by invisible hand economy works. What would encourage people to better there lives if it was better for people to stay poor.

    April 17, 2012 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  12. chuck weidemann

    Average wage earners should never pay a higher percent of income than the matter how the wealthy make their money! If this were true I think more people would be comfortable with whatever they were paying. To simple?

    April 17, 2012 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  13. Les

    It is time to vote out all of those congressmen and congresswomen who voted no on the Buffet Tax.

    April 17, 2012 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  14. mikel

    If by fair, the top 5% pay over 80!% of the taxes. Or by fair, do you mean that rich people are evil and taking poor peoples money out of their accounts by gunpoint and forcing them to do little dances while they smoke cigars and laugh deviously?

    Instead of whining about what everyone else has, do something for yourself instead, crybabies...

    April 17, 2012 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  15. Russell Smith

    And those that don't are rich

    April 17, 2012 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  16. Jrl

    I think it favors the 50 percent of people WHO DON'T PAY TAXES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    April 17, 2012 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  17. rla

    The whole 72000 page tax code is a disgrace to the congresses and both parties who created it as a favor riddled, social experiment device rather than a system to raise the revenue needed to fund the functions of government. Get rid of the monster -top to bottom-it is the most hated of any function of government and I mean hated by busness, individules and my dog!

    April 17, 2012 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  18. NewMexico720

    A consumption tax is what we need to have in place. That way, even the poor people who benefit from having roads, police, medical and other needs of life, can pay their fair share of taxes and not just be getting money back each year. A consumption tax of 18% would be perfect. Buy a loaf of bread, pay 18% Federal Tax. Buy a yacht, pay 18% Federal Tax. Simple!

    April 17, 2012 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  19. Don

    Romney is the best example of the tax system not being fair, he only paid at a rate of 13.9 percent and he has over 250 million dollars (that we know of at least) in foreign banks accruing interest secretly. Romney the tax cheat who hides his money in Swiss Banks and the Cayman Islands has a lot to hide from the shady way that he obtained his finances. He cannot and will not be selected to rule the country while hiding his shady assets. Romney made his money going after companies to bankrupt them and enrich himself all for greed and what does every greedy person have in common, they always manage to do something unethical in order to attain more money like Bernie Madoff. Romney along with this his secretive Mormon organization may be hiding something even more sinister than just the usual money laundering charge that people with offshore accounts engage in.

    April 17, 2012 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  20. Mike

    Does it favor the rich, yes and no. The rich at least the self made ones are smart and capitalism should favor them to give incentive. At the end of the day they invest back into companies and business and stock market(businesses) which create jobs and improve the overall economy. And 15 percent of 1 million is far more than 25 percent of 50K

    April 17, 2012 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  21. Barowner

    This article is totally ridiculous – the tax system favors the poor because they pay NO taxes. EVERYONE SHOULD PAY THE SAME FLAT PERCENTAGE REGARDLESS OF THEIR INCOME. Rich people already pay the vast majority of tax dollars. If we keep taxing them, there will be no more rich and then what will the poor do for money??????

    April 17, 2012 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  22. Donnie the Lion

    It does, and I have a specific example I'd like to divulge but I can't. It involves tax breaks on bankruptcy insurance.

    April 17, 2012 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  23. Tex71

    Why is this still presented as a matter of opinion when the richest Americans pay a lower tax rate than hard-working middle class professionals who can barely make the mortgage payment?

    April 17, 2012 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  24. Skyler

    Well, of course most Americans think so...because most Americans aren't wealthy! What a silly, completely biased poll. This is a prime example of tyranny of the majority, which the founding fathers of our country were greatly concerned about. Even those who aren't wealthy can surely see that if you poll a bunch of people who aren't wealthy, they will say the system favors the wealthy. Human nature is self-serving. Tyranny of the majority...anyone who doesn't know what that means needs to look it up.

    April 17, 2012 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  25. Rudy NYC

    Democrats are not singling out the wealthy. Republican tax policies singled them out decades ago.

    April 17, 2012 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
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