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Americans divided over taxes but support ‘Buffett Rule,’ polls find

This news story was published on April 16, 2012.
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By Kim Geiger, Tribune Washington Bureau –

WASHINGTON — As the Senate considers President Barack Obama’s “Buffett Rule” to require that millionaires and billionaires pay at least 30 percent income tax, a new poll suggests the proposal is quite popular with the American public.

Nearly three-quarters — 72 percent — of Americans say they support the idea, according to a CNN survey of 1,015 Americans, including 910 registered voters.

While the proposal was favored more heavily by Democrats (90 percent), people who make less than $50,000/year (79 percent), and people who live in urban areas (79 percent), a majority of all groups supported it, except for those who identify with the tea party movement and those who consider themselves conservatives.

Tea party supporters opposed the proposal 58 percent to 40 percent. Conservatives opposed it 49 percent to 51 percent, but people who identified as Republicans supported it 53 percent to 46 percent.

Meanwhile, less than half of Americans say their current tax bill is too high, according to a recent Gallup poll, which found the public divided on whether or not they pay to too much.

Forty-seven percent said they think the amount they pay in federal income taxes is “just right,” while 46 percent said it is too high. Asked if they believed the amount they will pay in income taxes this year is “fair,” 59 percent said they consider it fair while 37 percent said they thought it was unfair.

Historically, the responses are not out of the norm. Americans have felt better about the taxes they pay — both the amount and the fairness of the tax — since the Bush tax cuts went into effect in the early 2000s.

But Americans had been growing less pleased with the tax situation in recent years. In 2011, 50 percent said the taxes they paid were too high, up from 48 percent in 2010. And 40 percent said they considered their income taxes unfair, up from 36 percent in 2010. The trend has reversed among people who make more than $30,000 a year, but it has persisted among lower income Americans. In 2008, 27 percent of low-income Americans said their income taxes are not fair — today, it has climbed to 38 percent.

Gallup’s Lydia Saad observed in an analysis accompanying the poll findings that the discontent among low-income Americans may be due to the increased focus on taxes in political discourse.

“Perhaps because of the slow economy, or because of recent discussion of the ‘Buffett Rule’ and President Barack Obama’s related interest in shifting a greater proportion of the nation’s tax bill to high-income Americans, low-income Americans have grown increasingly discontent since 2009 with the amount and fairness of their own taxes,” Saad wrote.

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