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

Over six in ten believe taxes on the middle class are too high

NEW YORK, April 23, 2014 /PRNewswire/-- 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.

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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. (Full results, including data tables, can be found here)

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).

To see other recent Harris Polls, please visit the Harris Poll News Room.

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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.

Press Contact:
Corporate Communications
The Harris Poll
[email protected]

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