U.S. voters, by a two-to-one ratio, believe that raising taxes on the rich would benefit the economy and create a more equitable tax system. That’s according to a new Pew Research Center poll released July 16.

Forty-four percent of adults polled say hiking taxes on those who earn $250,000 and more would aid the economy and make taxes more fair, while 22 percent said an increase would not make a difference and 21 percent said it would not make taxes more fair.

The results were typical of similar surveys conducted over the past months, said a Pew representative.

“We know that Americans generally favor increasing taxes on higher incomes,” said Carroll Doherty, associate director for the center.

For example, Doherty cited a December 2011 poll in which 57 percent of respondents said the most bothersome aspect of the tax system was that the rich do not pay their fair share.

“When people talk about raising taxes on the rich it isn’t just that they’re jealous or that they want to bring other people down, it’s that they’re convinced that fair systems bring about fair outcomes for everyone,” said Ethan Poloack, senior policy analyst at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C.

The income gleaned from taxing the nation’s wealthiest could be reinvested in improving the country’s infrastructure, in education and in research and development, which can lead to more employment and a more robust economy, Poloack said.

The survey’s respondents who agreed with that stance were usually of a particular political leaning—but that’s typical, said Geoffrey Skelley, political analyst with the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

“The results indicate what you would expect—that this is a partisan issue,” he told the AFRO.
Most Democrats, 64 percent, thought hiking taxes on the rich would bolster the economy compared to 27 percent Republicans who share that belief. And 65 percent of Democrats compared to 25 percent Republicans thought the increase would make the tax system fairer.

Doherty, the Pew official, said the poll yielded some unusual results among Republican participants, however.
“What is somewhat surprising is the evidence that Republicans are divided over the idea of raising taxes. They don’t all agree it would be a bad thing,” he said. “This has been a very partisan issue and there is more division than you would think.”

Taxes once again became a hot topic in Washington after the Supreme Court upheld President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, including an individual insurance mandate that levies a penalty on those who fail to obtain coverage. And, interest in the tax issue continued to build last week when the White House vowed to veto any bill that includes extending Bush-era tax cuts to the rich. Those cuts, including those benefitting the middle class, are slated to expire at the end of the year.

While the poll indicates that a majority of Americans seem to agree with the president’s position, political analysts say the issue is unlikely to have a significant impact on the elections in November.

“I don’t think it will make much of a difference. Most voters already know who they’re going to vote for and why,” said Jason Johnson, a professor of political science at Hiram College in Ohio.

The Pew Research Center poll surveyed 1,015 adults by telephone between July 12 and July 15. The survey has a 3.6 percent margin of error.

Zenitha Prince

Special to the AFRO