Public Opinions on Taxes: 1937 to Today

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With talk of fundamental tax reform in the air, AEI updates the Public Opinion Study on Taxes, which takes a comprehensive look at polling on taxes from 1937 to the present.
  • Forty-eight percent say the federal income taxes they pay are too high. Forty-five percent say they are about right. Only 3 percent say they are too low
  • Late Fall 2010 polls showed the public split on which party could better handle taxes. A new late March-early April 2011 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows the Republicans with a 2-point advantage on the issue.
  • Sixty-eight percent in a new AP-GfK Roper poll said "taxes" are an extremely or very important issue to them, ranking far behind such issues as the economy and gas prices. Forty-seven percent approve of the way President Obama is handling the tax issue, 52 percent disapprove.
  • Although Americans' preference was to not extend the Bush tax cut for those making $250,000 or more, the public supported the December tax cut compromise that extended that tax break.
  • In other areas, public opinion has been stable. Many Americans think the tax system needs major reforms. Polls support a top 25 percent total tax rate. The estate tax is unpopular. In a December 2010 ABC/Washington Post poll, 52 percent supported increasing the exemption on inheritance taxes so that only estates worth $5 million are taxed. Forty-one percent were opposed.
View previous Public Opinion Studies on AEI.org

Karlyn Bowman is a senior fellow, and Andrew Rugg is a research assistant at AEI.

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