The Evolution of Public Opinion on Taxes – Navigator, October 2018

October 18, 2018

This report reviews public opinion on tax policy and the nation’s tax system in the years leading up to the passage of the TCJA, including underlying attitudes about who benefits from the tax system and the relationship of taxation to perceptions of deficits, government spending, and the overall economy. This report also looks at how the law is now viewed by the public and its potential impact in the upcoming midterm elections, including which messages about the law are most persuasive to Americans.

  • Public opinion research over the past several years clearly demonstrates Americans believe that the tax system favors the wealthy and large corporations over everyone else. These are widely held beliefs across the political and ideological spectrums, even among Republicans and conservatives. Moreover, the public overwhelmingly rejects many conservative economic theories about the tax system.
  • While there are competing views of the tax system and its impact on the economy, taxing the wealthy and corporations is seen as better for the economy than tax cuts for individuals or corporations.
  • When it comes to taxes and government spending, Americans are supportive of cutting spending in theory, but are extremely concerned about potential cuts to popular public programs, and support raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations to enhance government programs that protect people and invest in the future.
  • Now that it has been enacted, public opinion on the tax law is divided along partisan lines. Since passage of the law, the average level of support or approval among the public for the TCJA has hovered under 40 percent. The law has not become the lifeboat Republicans had hoped would buoy their approval ratings and electoral support in the midterm elections.
  • Americans are convinced that the new law unfairly benefits the wealthiest individuals and largest corporations at the expense of the middle class. The public also worries that the law will raise the deficit, resulting in deep cuts to valued public programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, education, and infrastructure.
  • While the public is divided on the TCJA’s impact on the economy, opposition arguments to it strongly and consistently prevail over conservative defenses of the law.
  • Over the past year, as debate on this tax law continued, a number of polls revealed evidence that there is potential to actually increase electoral support for Democrats in next month’s elections.
  • Voters prefer a candidate who will replace the TCJA with one that taxes corporations and the wealthy, but support keeping their own personal tax cut intact.

Read the full report here: