A Taxing Issue: Majorities of Americans Support Increasing Taxes on the Very Rich

    NEW YORK , N.Y. – April 23, 2014 – As seen in a recent Harris Poll, a strong majority of U.S. adults (81%) across the political spectrum (77% Rep., 84% Dem., 81% Ind.) see our tax system as a cause of economic inequality in the United States – but that doesn’t mean everyone agrees on what’s wrong with it. When asked whether taxes on different groups of Americans – segmented by income – are too high, too low or fair, nearly half (46%) feel taxes on the poor are too high, while over one-third (35%) feel they’re fair (up from 29% in 2012) and nearly one in ten (8%) feel they’re too low.

    Sentiments are far less divided on the other end of the income spectrum. Majorities see taxes on both billionaires (65%) and people with incomes of $1 million per year (58%) as too low, one in ten each see taxes on these groups as too high (9% for billionaires, 11% for those earning $1 million per year) while 14% feel current rates are fair for billionaires and 19% say the same for $1m earners.

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,234 adults surveyed online between March 12 and 17, 2014.

    Turning to the middle ground between low income and those earning $1million or more each year, over six in ten Americans see taxes on the middle class as too high (62%), while nearly three in ten (28%) see them as fair and only 2% see them as too low. For people with incomes of $200,000 per year, four in ten Americans (39%) feel tax rates are fair, three in ten (31%) feel they’re too low and nearly two in ten (17%) believe they’re too high.

    • Democrats (56%) are far more likely than either Republicans (35%) or Independents (41%) to see taxes on the poor as too high, while majorities across party lines agree they’re too high for the middle class (61%, 68% and 59%, respectively).
    • Democrats (39%) are also more likely than either Republicans (23%) or Independents (29%) to see taxes as too low for those earning $200,000 per year.
    • Independents fall more squarely between the two parties on the perceptions of taxes on those earning $1 million per year (72% Dem. vs. 57% Ind. vs. 42% Rep.) and billionaires (80% vs. 64% vs. 49%, respectively) as too low.
    • Americans earning under $35,000 per year are more likely than any other income group to see taxes on the poor as too high (61%); those earning $35,000 to under $75,000 (46%) are also more likely to hold this belief than those with $100,000 or more in annual income (35%).
    • Generation outlooks show some differences as well, with Millennials (52%) less likely than any other generation (64% Gen Xers, 69% Baby Boomers, 64% Matures) to see taxes on the middle class as too high, while Gen Xers and Baby Boomers (35% each) are more likely than either Millennials (26%) or Matures (25%) to see taxes on those earning $200,000 per year as too low.

    Support for increasing taxes on the very rich

    Majorities of Americans agree – many of them strongly – that increasing taxes on the very rich would be fair (70% agree, 44% strongly so), that it would be the right thing to do (68%, 45%) and that it would help reduce the budget deficit (63%, 34%). Only 35% agree (18% strongly so) that it would hurt the economy because these are the very rich are the ones who create jobs.

    • Political breakouts follow expected patterns; Democrats are most likely and Republicans least so, with Independents falling in between, to agree that doing so would be fair (87% Dem. vs. 69% Ind. vs. 49% Rep.), that it would be the right thing to do (85% vs. 69% vs. 49%, respectively) and that it would help reduce the budget deficit 77% vs. 64% vs. 43%, respectively). Also predictably, the inverse is true for agreement that doing so would hurt the economy because the very rich are the ones who create jobs (56% Rep. vs. 34% Ind. vs. 21% Dem.).
    • Matures (50%) are less likely than any other generation (70% Millennials, 62% each Gen Xers and baby Boomers) to believe increasing taxes on the very rich would help reduce the budget deficit, though sentiments are consistent across generations for all other sentiments.

    Pay to play?

    Some high earners have made waves in recent news cycles by floating notions of tying voting rights, or the degree to which votes count, to taxes, and different forms of this concept receive different levels of support among U.S. adults. Nearly four in ten (37%) agree that the right to vote should be reserved for those who pay taxes, while only 14% each agree that how much a person’s vote counts in elections should be tied to either the rate at which they’re taxed or how much they pay in taxes overall.

    • Nearly half of Republicans (47%) agree the right to vote should be reserved for taxpayers, compared to a third of Independents (34%) and three in ten Democrats (30%). Support for ideas of tying voting strength to either the rate at which one is taxed (13% Rep., 16% Dem., 11% Ind.) or how much one is taxed overall (14%, 15% and 11%, respectively) is low across party lines.
    • Millennials are more likely than any other generation to agree that the right to vote should be reserved for those who pay taxes (49%, vs. 34% Gen Xers, 32% Baby Boomers and 28% Matures) and that how much a person’s vote counts should be measured by the rate at which they’re taxed (24% vs. 13%, 9% and 6%, respectively).

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    TABLE 1

    TAXES TOO HIGH OR TOO LOW

    Do you think that taxes on each of the following groups of people are currently fair, or are they too high or low?

    Base: All adults

     

    Too high

    Fair

    Too low

    Not at all sure

    2012

    2014

    2012

    2014

    2012

    2014

    2012

    2014

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Poor people

    49

    46

    29

    35

    11

    8

    11

    11

    The middle class

    60

    62

    30

    28

    2

    2

    8

    7

    People with incomes of $200,000 per year

    15

    17

    37

    39

    35

    31

    13

    13

    People with incomes of $1,000,000 per year

    10

    11

    18

    19

    62

    58

    11

    12

    Billionaires

    7

    9

    15

    14

    69

    65

    9

    11

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 2a

    TAXES TOO HIGH

    By Political Party & Political Philosophy

    Do you think that taxes on each of the following groups of people are currently fair, or are they too high or low?

    Base: All adults

     

    Total

    Political Party

    Philosophy

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    Cons.

    Mod.

    Lib.

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Poor people

    46

    35

    56

    41

    37

    46

    58

    The middle class

    62

    68

    61

    59

    68

    59

    62

    People with incomes of $200,000 per year

    17

    28

    8

    19

    30

    12

    10

    People with incomes of $1,000,000 per year

    11

    18

    4

    13

    20

    8

    5

    Billionaires

    9

    15

    4

    11

    18

    7

    2

     

    TABLE 2b

    TAXES TOO HIGH

    By Generation & Annual Household Income

    Do you think that taxes on each of the following groups of people are currently fair, or are they too high or low?

    Base: All adults

     

    Total

    Generation

    Annual HH Income

    Millennials (18-36)

    Gen Xers (37-48)

    Baby Boomers (49-67)

    Matures (68+)

    <$35k

    $35k-$49.9k

    $50k-$74.9k

    $75k-$99.9k

    $100k+

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Poor people

    46

    44

    50

    46

    43

    61

    46

    46

    37

    35

    The middle class

    62

    52

    64

    69

    64

    58

    63

    64

    60

    65

    People with incomes of $200,000 per year

    17

    16

    17

    19

    17

    9

    12

    16

    17

    29

    People with incomes of $1,000,000 per year

    11

    12

    11

    9

    12

    8

    5

    12

    12

    14

    Billionaires

    9

    9

    9

    9

    9

    6

    7

    11

    9

    11


    TABLE 3a

    TAXES TOO LOW

    By Political Party & Political Philosophy

    Do you think that taxes on each of the following groups of people are currently fair, or are they too high or low?

    Base: All adults

     

    Total

    Political Party

    Philosophy

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    Cons.

    Mod.

    Lib.

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Poor people

    8

    17

    3

    8

    19

    5

    3

    The middle class

    2

    2

    2

    3

    2

    3

    2

    People with incomes of $200,000 per year

    31

    23

    39

    29

    21

    32

    44

    People with incomes of $1,000,000 per year

    58

    42

    72

    57

    36

    63

    78

    Billionaires

    65

    49

    80

    64

    44

    70

    86

     

    TABLE 3b

    TAXES TOO LOW

    By Generation & Annual Household Income

    Do you think that taxes on each of the following groups of people are currently fair, or are they too high or low?

    Base: All adults

     

    Total

    Generation

    Annual HH Income

    Millennials (18-36)

    Gen Xers (37-48)

    Baby Boomers (49-67)

    Matures (68+)

    <$35k

    $35k-$49.9k

    $50k-$74.9k

    $75k-$99.9k

    $100k+

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Poor people

    8

    7

    9

    10

    6

    5

    10

    7

    9

    11

    The middle class

    2

    2

    4

    2

    1

    3

    3

    2

    1

    2

    People with incomes of $200,000 per year

    31

    26

    35

    35

    25

    36

    36

    33

    30

    23

    People with incomes of $1,000,000 per year

    58

    51

    58

    65

    56

    59

    65

    60

    54

    55

    Billionaires

    65

    58

    66

    72

    65

    69

    69

    65

    64

    64

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding


    TABLE 4a

    INCREASING TAXES ON THE VERY RICH

    How much do you agree or disagree that increasing taxes on the very rich wouldÉ

    Base: All adults

     

    Agree (NET)

    Strongly agree

    Somewhat agree

    Disagree (NET)

    Somewhat disagree

    Strongly disagree

    Not at all sure

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Be fair

    70

    44

    26

    24

    11

    14

    6

    Be the right thing to do

    68

    45

    24

    24

    10

    14

    7

    Help reduce the budget deficit

    63

    34

    29

    27

    11

    16

    10

    Hurt the economy because they are the ones who create jobs

    35

    18

    18

    56

    25

    32

    8

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 4b

    INCREASING TAXES ON THE VERY RICH

    How much do you agree or disagree that increasing taxes on the very rich wouldÉ

    Summary of those saying Strongly agree or Somewhat agree

    Base: All adults

     

    2012 Total

    2014 Total

    Political Party

    Philosophy

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    Cons.

    Mod.

    Lib.

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Be fair

    70

    70

    49

    87

    69

    45

    76

    90

    Be the right thing to do

    69

    68

    49

    85

    69

    43

    75

    89

    Help reduce the budget deficit

    64

    63

    43

    77

    64

    42

    68

    81

    Hurt the economy because they are the ones who create jobs

    32

    35

    56

    21

    34

    56

    30

    18

     

    TABLE 4c

    INCREASING TAXES ON THE VERY RICH

    By Generation & Annual Household Income

    How much do you agree or disagree that increasing taxes on the very rich wouldÉ

    Summary of those saying Strongly agree or Somewhat agree

    Base: All adults

     

    Total

    Generation

    Annual HH Income

    Millennials (18-36)

    Gen Xers (37-48)

    Baby Boomers (49-67)

    Matures (68+)

    <$35k

    $35k-$49.9k

    $50k-$74.9k

    $75k-$99.9k

    $100k+

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Be fair

    70

    70

    71

    70

    67

    75

    72

    72

    70

    63

    Be the right thing to do

    68

    68

    70

    70

    62

    74

    73

    71

    69

    60

    Help reduce the budget deficit

    63

    70

    62

    62

    50

    70

    69

    65

    60

    55

    Hurt the economy because they are the ones who create jobs

    35

    36

    32

    34

    41

    30

    33

    33

    42

    38


    TABLE 5a

    AGREE/DISAGREE WITH TAX STATEMENTS

    How strongly do you agree or disagree with the following statements??

    Base: All adults

     

    Agree (NET)

    Strongly agree

    Somewhat agree

    Disagree (NET)

    Somewhat disagree

    Strongly disagree

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    The right to vote should be reserved for those who pay taxes.

    37

    17

    21

    63

    15

    47

    How much a person’s vote counts in elections should be measured by the rate at which they’re taxed.

    14

    4

    10

    86

    13

    73

    How much a person’s vote counts in elections should be measured by how much they pay in taxes.

    14

    4

    10

    86

    12

    74

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 5b

    AGREE WITH TAX STATEMENTS

    By Political Party & Political Philosophy

    How strongly do you agree or disagree with the following statements??

    Those saying Strongly agree or Somewhat agree

    Base: All adults

     

    2014 Total

    Political Party

    Philosophy

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    Cons.

    Mod.

    Lib.

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    The right to vote should be reserved for those who pay taxes.

    37

    47

    30

    34

    46

    36

    27

    How much a person’s vote counts in elections should be measured by the rate at which they’re taxed.

    14

    13

    16

    11

    13

    16

    11

    How much a person’s vote counts in elections should be measured by how much they pay in taxes.

    14

    14

    15

    11

    15

    15

    9

     

    TABLE 5c

    AGREE WITH TAX STATEMENTS

    By Generation & Annual Household Income

    How strongly do you agree or disagree with the following statements??

    Those saying A great deal or Somewhat

    Base: All adults

     

    2014 Total

    Generation

    Annual HH Income

    Millennials (18-36)

    Gen Xers (37-48)

    Baby Boomers (49-67)

    Matures (68+)

    <$35k

    $35k-$49.9k

    $50k-$74.9k

    $75k-$99.9k

    $100k+

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    The right to vote should be reserved for those who pay taxes.

    37

    49

    34

    32

    28

    34

    39

    40

    40

    36

    How much a person’s vote counts in elections should be measured by the rate at which they’re taxed.

    14

    24

    13

    9

    6

    16

    10

    13

    15

    14

    How much a person’s vote counts in elections should be measured by how much they pay in taxes.

    14

    20

    14

    10

    7

    14

    8

    15

    15

    14


    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between March 12 and 17, 2014 among 2,234 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

    All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

    Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

    These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

    The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

    Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

    The Harris Poll¨ #39, April 23, 2014

    By Larry Shannon-Missal, Harris Poll Research Manager

    About Nielsen & The Harris Poll

    On February 3, 2014, Nielsen acquired Harris Interactive and The Harris Poll. Nielsen Holdings N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence and mobile measurement. Nielsen has a presence in approximately 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA and Diemen, the Netherlands. For more information, visit www.nielsen.com.