Americans Support Extending Tax Cuts, But Not For Wealthiest Americans

Two new polls show that public attitudes toward the deal between President Obama and Senate Republicans is mixed at best.

First, a new Gallup poll shows that Americans are largely in support of the deal and of extending the tax cuts for all Americans:

PRINCETON, NJ — Two major elements included in the tax agreement reached Monday between President Barack Obama and Republican leaders in Congress meet with broad public support. Two-thirds of Americans (66%) favor extending the 2001/2003 tax cuts for all Americans for two years, and an identical number support extending unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed.

According to Gallup polling conducted Dec. 3-6, the slight majority of Democrats, as well as most independents and Republicans, would vote for a two-year extension of the tax cuts passed in 2001 and 2003.

This differs slightly from a November Gallup poll giving Americans three options for extending the Bush tax cuts. That poll found 40% in favor of extending the tax cuts for all Americans, 44% in favor of extending them with limits on tax breaks for the wealthy, and 13% in favor of letting the tax breaks expire altogether. Nevertheless, the results of the new question suggest that, while the compromise position on taxes may not be their ideal, most Americans would support congressional passage of it.

However, when asked in a separate poll to specifically opine about tax cuts for high-income earners,  they are far less supportive:

Americans don’t approve of keeping the breaks for upper-income taxpayers that are part of the deal President Barack Obama brokered with congressional Republicans, a Bloomberg National Poll shows.

The survey, conducted before, during and after the tax negotiations, shows that only a third support keeping the lower rates for the highest earners, and less than half of those respondents say the breaks for the wealthy should last for a shorter period than cuts for the middle class. Overall, two- thirds of those polled favor a permanent extension of the lower rates for the middle class.

More than a fourth say all the tax cuts should be allowed to expire Dec. 31, as scheduled.

I would be surprised at this point if the deal doesn’t get through Congress in mostly one piece, but numbers like this would suggest that the opposition the President is facing from within his own party isn’t just the whining of a fringe group.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Public Opinion Polls, Taxes, US Politics, , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. john personna says:

    Wouldn’t James’ “triangulation” have put us at tax cuts, but not for the wealthiest?

    I’d think so. This is a barbell (or dumbbell) package.

  2. Hugh says:

    I’d point out that Nancy Pelosi doesn’t believe that poll. If she did, she would have scheduled a vote before the elections.

  3. john personna says:

    I didn’t think that was the way filibuster worked, Hugh.

  4. Hugh says:

    John, I guess my point is that if the public supported 2-to-1 raising taxes on anyone during the recession, then the Speaker would have scheduled that vote in the House before the November elections so that Democrats could go home and campaign on such a popular stance. She didn’t, not because a filibuster would have stopped that bill in the Senate (even if that had happened the positive PR of supporting such a popular idea would have been cemented) but rather because it simply isn’t popular.

  5. john personna says:

    Can she literally schedule the vote? I didn’t think so. I thought all those vetoes, silent as they are, prevented bills going to the floor.

  6. James Joyner says:

    I’m not shocked that tax cuts for the wealthy don’t poll well, given the demagoguery on it. After all, it’s a small group that’s by definition “not me” for most people.

    But there’s such a thing as saliency. How many of those who nominally oppose extending the current rates on upper earners really care much one way or the other? Moreover, how many of those are going to vote Republican in 2012 to punish Obama?

  7. PD Shaw says:

    Looking closer at the Bloomburg poll, this is what I see:

    27% want all the tax cuts to expire
    35% want all the tax cuts to be extended for at least two years
    34% want the tax cuts to be extended only for the middle class

    I wish the poll provided party breakdowns.

  8. john personna says:

    James, way to play tin-ear to a progressive tax system.

    It’s all demagoguery. Got it.

  9. PD Shaw says:

    The large showing of defecit hawks in the poll might be because the poll introduces itself to the responders as a poll on ways to control the defecit.

  10. PD Shaw says:

    Poll responders also didn’t think taxes should be raised on those making $250,000, they preferred taxes to go up on those making $500,000 or more.

  11. James Joyner says:

    @john personna,

    I understand arguments for a progressive tax system. As a practical matter, any workable system will have to be progressive, since the very poor can’t afford to pay more than token taxes.

    But this poll isn’t measuring intellectual philosophy but rather a visceral reaction. “The rich” are bad people who aren’t paying their fair share! They ought to pay more! And, hey, it won’t cost me anything!

  12. An Interested Point says:

    I’m curious, James…do you also see the demagoguery of talk about “soaking the rich” and other such nonsense by allowing their income taxes to go up by a few percentage points? Or is that really just “class warfare”…

  13. john personna says:

    The funny thing is that you probably do accept that to fix the debt and deficit we have to tax the rich more than the poor. You just don’t like anyone else saying it.

    I would call that cognitive dissonance … if not plain posturing.

  14. Trumwill says:

    The funny thing is that you probably do accept that to fix the debt and deficit we have to tax the rich more than the poor. You just don’t like anyone else saying it.

    I might be projecting my views onto him, but I think his objection is not someone else saying “we should raise taxes on the rich” but rather “we should ONLY raise taxes on the rich.” It’s a majority deciding what consequences a minority should bear. I don’t think he’s all that far off-base with his criticisms here.

    I only partially agree with them, though. I think all of the taxe cuts should be allowed to expire. I also think that we need some new tax brackets up at the top that are stiffer. I still feel a tinge of discomfort at aiming all of the increases at a group of people that are not us.

  15. Taruna Oils says:

    You talk like you think raising taxes brings in more money. It doesn’t. It just slows the economy down, and you end up collecting less money anyway. The people who pay those taxes get a vote. They can refrain from investing, defer income, take their vacation instead of working, and a host of other micro and macro decisions that will lessen their tax burden.

  16. An Interested Party says:

    “You talk like you think raising taxes brings in more money. It doesn’t.”

    Yes, of course…only tax cuts bring in more money…and get you a shiny new magic pony too…