America's Tax System Is Widely Seen As Favoring The Rich, Poll Shows


Americans largely think the current tax system favors the wealthy and needs to be reformed, but not very many expect to be personally affected by President Barack Obama's proposed reforms, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll finds.

The vast majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents said they agree that Congress should pass legislation in the next year to reform taxes. A full 88 percent said tax reform is at least somewhat important, with 44 percent calling the subject "very important."

More than 60 percent said the tax system currently favors the wealthy over the middle class and poor, and just a combined 22 percent that the system favors the non-wealthy or treats everyone equally.

A majority in every income bracket agreed the system is biased toward the rich, although those in households making less than $40,000 a year were 8 points more likely to agree than were those making over $80,000 a year. The more prominent divide, though, was along party lines: 80 percent of Democrats and just 40 percent of Republicans said the wealthy benefit more.

Most Americans see an ideal system as one where everyone is treated the same. Sixty-one percent said the system should treat everyone equally, while 32 percent say America's tax system should favor the middle class and poor over the wealthy.

Chart created using Datawrapper

But a majority doubt they would see much change from President Barack Obama's plan to raise capital gains taxes on the wealthy while offering new tax breaks for college students and working families. Just 24 percent said it would directly help their family, while 15 percent said they think it would hurt.

While the president touted the proposal as tax relief for the middle class, Americans at all income levels had similar responses. Many said they didn't expect to see any effects, including 47 percent of those making less than $40,000 a year, 42 percent of those making between $40,000 and $80,000, and 42 percent of those making more than $80,000. Those at the lowest income levels were least likely to anticipate a personal effect.

Americans under 30, who are more likely to be thinking about college, were the most enthusiastic, with 39 percent saying the measures would help. Just 5 percent over age 65 said the same.

Partisanship was also a factor -- while a majority of both parties said they thought the proposal would have no effect or they were unsure, Democrats were far more likely to think it would help than hurt, while the Republicans who anticipated any effects said, by a 2-to-1 ratio, that they would be negative.

The muted reaction to Obama's proposed tax reform places it in good company with other economic proposals. About half or more of Americans also say they wouldn't be affected by policies including a minimum wage hike, equal pay for women, funding for child care, debt reduction or fewer business regulations.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted Jan. 21-23 among U.S. adults using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov's nationally representative opinion polling. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be found here. More details on the poll's methodology are available here.

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