Polls: Tax Man Cometh..But How Do American's Feel About Him?

With tax day around the corner, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) today releases its annual report on Americans' opinions about taxes compiled by public opinion expert Karlyn Bowman.

This AEI public opinion study looks at attitudes since the first questions were asked in the mid-1930s to today.

Key findings include:

  • VOTING ISSUE? It does not appear that taxing the rich or tax reform will be key issues for voters this fall. Occupy Wall Street has done little to change attitudes toward taxing the rich, with long-standing support toward taxing them more remaining strong. On a related point, polls show solid support for the Buffett Rule.
  • RICH PAY THEIR FAIR SHARE? In questions asked by the Roper Organization between 1972 and 1992, between 72 and 80 percent said "high-income families" pay too little in taxes. In 1992, Gallup started asking whether "upper-income people" pay too little, too much, or the right amount in federal taxes, and 77 percent said they paid too little. That response has moved downward unevenly. In 2011, 59 percent said they paid too little. Most people say what they pay in taxes is "fair" or "about right."
  • FLAT TAX? In our new section on the flat tax, we compare attitudes when Steve Forbes made a flat tax a key part of his 1996 presidential run to attitudes about Rick Perry's flat tax and Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan. Many people don’t have an opinion about a flat tax and generally prefer a graduated tax system.
  • HOW'S PRESIDENT OBAMA DOING? President Obama's marks on handling taxes were high early in his presidency. They dropped in late 2011 and have recovered a little in early 2012, with various polls indicating approval ratings between 36 and 45 percent. In the only poll we've found that matches Obama up with Romney on the issue, 49 percent say Obama would do a better job handling taxes, with 45 percent favoring Romney.


Read the full report here.

Karlyn Bowman is an AEI senior fellow and public opinion expert. She can be reached at [email protected], or by contacting [email protected] or 202.862.5917.

For help reaching any AEI scholars and for all other media requests, please contact Jesse Blumenthal at [email protected] or 202.862.4870.

AEI's in-house ReadyCam TV studio may be booked by calling VideoLink at 617.340.4300. For radio interviews, please e-mail [email protected] to reserve AEI's ISDN facilities.

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