August 30, 2012
Pew: 58% Say the Rich Should Pay More Taxes
Pew Research Center: Yes, the Rich Are Different:
Another widely held perception of the rich is that they do not pay their fair share in taxes.
A majority of adults (58%) say that upper-income people pay too little in federal taxes. One-in-four (26%) say upper-income people pay their fair share in taxes, and 8% say they pay too much in taxes. Even among those who consider themselves upper or upper-middle class, fully 52% say upper-income people pay too little. Only 10% of this group says upper-class adults say people pay too much in taxes.
The public is divided over whether lower-income people pay the appropriate amount in federal taxes. Some 37% say lower-income people pay too much in taxes, while roughly as many (34%) say lower-income people pay their fair share in taxes. One-in-five adults say lower-income people pay too little in taxes. There is little agreement across social classes on this issue, with a plurality of lower-class adults (48%) saying lower-income people pay too much in taxes and a plurality (39%) of upper-income adults saying lower-income people pay their fair share.
When it comes to the middle-class tax burden, there is no clear consensus among the public. Half of all adults say middle-income people pay their fair share in federal taxes. Nearly four-in-ten (38%) say middle-income people pay too much in taxes, and 6% say they pay too little.
Partisanship is closely linked to views about federal taxes, and the biggest gaps emerge over tax rates for the rich. A solid majority of Republicans say upper-income people pay either their fair share (44%) or too much (14%). Among Democrats, a strong majority (78%) say upper-income people pay too little in taxes; only 33% of Republicans agree. Some 13% of Democrats say upper-income people pay their fair share in taxes, while 4% say the rich are paying too much.
Partisans also divide over whether low-income people pay the right amount of taxes. A plurality of Democrats (48%) say low-income people pay too much, while Republicans are divided over whether low-income people pay their fair share (34%) or too little (30%). Only 23% of Republicans say lower-income people pay too much.
These partisan differences fade away on the issue of middle-class taxes. Democrats and Republicans have nearly identical views about the tax burden faced by middle-income Americans. Roughly half say middle-income people pay their fair share in taxes (52% of Republicans and 51% of Democrats). Nearly four-in-ten say middle-income people pay too much in taxes (39% of Republicans and 37% of Democrats). Very few from either party say middle-income people pay too little (3% of Republicans and 8% of Democrats).
[A]s tax policy goes, it offers nothing new. Much of the media coverage is leaving out a few key points:
- The survey did not ask respondents what they think the rich should pay, or what the rich pay now.
- Nearly all Americans view the wealthy as someone else, which is why support for taxing them is higher in abstract questions than in actual proposals.
- Support for increasing taxes on the rich has been dropping over time, not increasing.
What's clear is that issues of tax complexity, fairness, and burdens continue to be important to the American people. The debate over the economic growth impact of higher tax rates is also an important one. But a poll showing that Americans abstractly support taxing someone who is not them is nothing new.
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The rich do pay their fair share, almost 50 percent. Its just that the people who are so rich and living off of dividends make the headlines because telling people that they only pay 15% makes great news.
Posted by: Barbara Cruz | Aug 30, 2012 9:04:23 AM
Where I grew up everyone said "don't tax you, don't tax me, tax the man behind the tree".
50% of the people in the US pay NO income taxes. Pew must have over sampled them.
Posted by: Jack | Aug 30, 2012 11:39:52 AM
Amazing that Pew felt the need to conduct a survey that belabors the obvious. Of course a majority of people prefer that a wealthier someone else picks up the tab. The political lesson is that the Framers were right to safeguard against the tyranny of the majority.
Posted by: Jake | Aug 30, 2012 1:40:39 PM
It'd be interesting for a polling firm to ask "How much in federal taxes do you think something that earned $10M would pay in overall taxes, on average?"
I had lunch with a friend that asserted it as probably under $100K. When we looked up the CBO numbers he was blown away: Roughly $3.3M in taxes.
Posted by: firstname.lastname@example.org | Aug 30, 2012 1:54:51 PM
How are you defining "earned $10M" and how are you defining "overall taxes"?
Posted by: the real anon | Aug 30, 2012 4:13:52 PM
Overall taxes is all up per the CBO: individual, SS, corp and excise.
"earned" means whatever it means for the $10M average. I'm not aware the CBO breaks those numbers out (eg whether cap gains or earned via labor). But on average, across all $10M earners, they are paying around $3.3M
For every person above $10M that pays 15%, that means there is another person that is paying north of 40%
And these don't count state/local
Posted by: email@example.com | Aug 31, 2012 12:08:15 AM
Everybody likes to talk about the middle class, upper income, and lower income but no one wants to define these terms. If these terms were defined it might be easier to determine if these groups are paying too little or too much. I'd be surprised if there is anybody making $10 million that is paying $3.3 million in income taxes. If they are, they need to get a tax advisor.
Posted by: Former Fed | Sep 2, 2012 12:55:00 PM
You can look at the CBO data and is says precisely they are paying 33% effective tax rate. Do you think the CBO data is wrong? Why would the CBO lie about this?
And this is the average. Which (again) means if someone is paying 15%, then another person is paying quite a bit more to balance them out.
Posted by: firstname.lastname@example.org | Sep 2, 2012 9:45:11 PM