More Positive View of Taxes Persists

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Six in 10 say income taxes they pay are fair

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Time is running out for Americans who have yet to file a tax return on 2003 income, with the filing deadline looming tomorrow. A new Gallup Poll finds that half of all Americans say their federal income taxes are too high, a finding similar to last year but much less negative than in previous years. Additionally, 6 in 10 Americans regard the income taxes they pay as fair. The public believes that upper-income people and corporations pay too little in federal taxes, and is divided over whether middle-income people are paying their fair share or are paying too much tax. In the past few years, the percentages of Americans believing that middle-income people are overtaxed, and that upper-income people are not taxed enough, have both declined.

The poll, conducted April 5-8, finds 50% of Americans saying they consider the federal income tax they have to pay as too high, while 43% say it is about right, and 3% say it is too low.

In the nearly 60 years that Gallup has asked this question, the percentage who believed they were paying too much in taxes has been lower only a few other times -- in January 2003 (47%), February 1962 (48%), February 1961 (46%), and March 1949 (43%).

Do you consider the amount of federal income tax you have to pay as too high, about right, or too low?

This more positive view of income taxes, which has been evident for the past three years, is likely due in part to the federal income-tax cuts that have been passed during George W. Bush's presidency, as well as to U.S. involvement in the war on terror. Typically, Americans are less willing to say negative things about their taxes when the United States is involved in some international conflict.

Consistent with that interpretation, 62% of Americans now regard the income tax they have to pay this year as fair, while 33% say it is not. These results are consistent with other data measured following the terrorist attacks and Bush's tax cuts (64% said their taxes were fair in 2003; 58% in 2002). In the late 1990s and the very early stages of the Bush presidency, only about half of Americans said their taxes were fair.

Do you regard the income tax
which you will have to pay this year as fair?

While high by recent standards, the current percentage of Americans evaluating their taxes as fair pales in comparison to the more than 80% who did so during World War II.

Public Views of the Amount of Taxes Groups Pay

Americans are more critical about the amount of federal taxes corporations and upper-income people pay. More than 6 in 10 Americans believe that corporations (69%) and upper-income people (63%) pay too little in federal taxes. The public tends to believe that lower-income people pay too much (49%) in federal taxes, but is more divided over whether middle-income people pay their fair share (47%) or pay too much (46%) tax.

Are the following groups paying
their FAIR share in federal taxes,
paying too MUCH or paying too LITTLE?
April 5-8, 2004

In the last few years, there has been a shift in public perceptions about middle-class taxes. From 1992 through 1999, Gallup Polls consistently found a majority of Americans saying middle-income people paid too much in federal taxes. In 2003, a slim majority said middle-income people paid their fair share of taxes (51%), which has now fallen back to a plurality of 47% in this year's update.

Middle-Income People:
Paying Their Fair Share in Federal Taxes, Paying Too Much, or Paying Too Little?

Since President Clinton's first budget raised income taxes on high-income earners, the percentage of Americans who say upper-income people are paying too little in taxes has steadily declined, from 77% to 63% today. Now about one in four say upper-income people pay their fair share of taxes, and about one in 10 say they pay too much.

Upper-Income People:
Paying Their Fair Share in Federal Taxes, Paying Too Much, or Paying Too Little?

At the same time, Americans' views of the taxes lower-income people pay have not changed much. Typically, about half say members of this group pay too much in taxes, with 35%-40% saying they pay their fair share.

Lower-Income People:
Paying Their Fair Share in Federal Taxes, Paying Too Much, or Paying Too Little?

Views on the amount of taxes these groups pay differ by one's partisan orientation. Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to think that lower- and middle-income people pay too much in taxes, and that upper-income people and corporations pay too little.

Computer Tax Help

This year's last-minute filers could be greatly aided by using a computer program to help them prepare their taxes. While these programs can make preparing one's tax return much easier than preparing it by hand, the percentage of Americans who use computer programs to help them prepare their taxes seems to have leveled off somewhat. The poll finds 32% of Americans who say they use such programs, little different from the 29% who made that claim three years ago. But this percentage is much higher than in the early 1990s, when just about 1 in 10 Americans used the computer for help in preparing their taxes.

Have you used, or will you or your family use a computer program to help you prepare your taxes, or not?
% Yes

People who live in households where both adults work are much more likely to use computer tax programs (43%) than are those residing in other types of households (28%). Along similar lines, 41% of Americans living in households whose incomes are $50,000 or greater use such programs, compared with 33% of those in households with incomes between $30,000 and $50,000, and just 23% of those whose household incomes are below $30,000.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,014 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted April 5-8, 2004. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

33. Do you consider the amount of federal income tax you have to pay as too high, about right, or too low?

 

 

Too high

About right

Too low

No opinion

%

%

%

%

2004 Apr 5-8

50

43

3

4

2003 Apr 7-9

50

46

2

2

2003 Jan 10-12 ^

47

50

1

2

2001 Apr 6-8

65

31

1

3

2000 Apr 7-9

63

33

1

3

1999 Sep 10-14

68

28

1

3

1999 Jul 16-18

60

37

*

3

1999 Apr 6-7

65

29

2

4

1998 Apr 17-19

66

31

1

2

1997 Mar 24-26

58

38

1

3

1996 Apr 9-10

64

33

1

2

1994 Dec 16-18

66

30

1

3

1994 Apr 16-18

56

42

*

2

1993 Mar 29-31

55

41

2

2

1992 Mar 26-29

56

39

2

3

1991 Mar 28-30

55

37

2

6

1990 Mar 8-11

63

31

2

4

1985 Jun 7-10

63

32

1

4

1982 May 14-17

60

32

*

8

1973 Feb 16-19

65

28

1

6

1969 Mar 12-17

69

25

*

6

1967 Mar 9-14

58

38

1

3

1966 Feb 10-15

52

39

0

8

1964 Feb 28-Mar 5

56

35

1

9

1963 Jan 11-16

52

38

1

8

1962 Jun 28-Jul 3

63

32

1

4

1962 Feb 8-13

48

45

0

7

1961 Feb 10-15

46

45

1

8

1959 Mar 4-9

51

40

2

7

1957 Apr 6-11

61

31

*

8

1956 Feb 16-21

55

35

1

9

1953 Feb1-5

59

37

*

4

1952 Feb 9-14

71

26

*

3

1951 Feb 4-9

52

43

1

4

1950 Feb

57

40

0

3

1949 Mar

43

53

1

4

1948 Mar

57

38

1

4

1947 Nov

63

32

0

5

1947 Mar

54

40

0

6

* Less than 0.5%

^ Asked of a half sample.

34. Do you regard the income tax which you will have to pay this year as fair?

 

Yes, fair

No, not fair

No opinion

%

%

%

2004 Apr 5-8

62

33

5

2003 Apr 7-9

64

33

3

2002 Apr 5-7

58

37

5

2001 Apr 6-8

51

46

3

1999 Apr 6-7

45

49

6

1997 Mar

51

43

6

1946 Nov

60

34

6

1946 Feb

62

38

--

1945 Mar

85

15

--

1944 Mar

87

13

--

1944 Feb

90

10

--

1943 Feb

85

15

--

35. As I read off some different groups, please tell me if you think they are paying their FAIR share in federal taxes, paying too MUCH or paying too LITTLE? First, how about -- [ITEMS A-C ROTATED, ITEM D READ LAST]?

A. Lower-income people

 

Fair share

Too much

Too little

No opinion

%

%

%

%

2004 Apr 5-8

35

49

12

4

2003 Apr 7-9

36

49

12

3

1999 Apr 6-7

34

51

11

4

1996 Apr 9-10

40

48

9

3

1994 Apr 16-18

43

42

12

3

1993 Mar 29-31

37

51

9

3

1992 Mar 26-29

32

57

8

3

B. Middle-income people

 

Fair share

Too much

Too little

No opinion

%

%

%

%

2004 Apr 5-8

47

46

4

3

2003 Apr 7-9

51

40

7

2

1999 Apr 6-7

35

59

4

2

1996 Apr 9-10

34

58

5

3

1994 Apr 16-18

39

57

3

1

1993 Mar 29-31

39

54

5

2

1992 Mar 26-29

36

57

5

2

C. Upper-income people

 

Fair share

Too much

Too little

No opinion

%

%

%

%

2004 Apr 5-8

24

9

63

4

2003 Apr 7-9

24

10

63

3

1999 Apr 6-7

19

10

66

5

1996 Apr 9-10

19

9

68

4

1994 Apr 16-18

20

10

68

2

1993 Mar 29-31

16

5

77

2

1992 Mar 26-29

16

4

77

3

D. Corporations

 

Fair share

Too much

Too little

No opinion

2004 Apr 5-8

19%

5

69

7

Now we have a question about your 2004 income tax filing with the IRS, for what you earned in 2003.

36. Have you used, or will you or your family use a computer program to help you prepare your taxes, or not?

 

Yes

No

No opinion

%

%

%

2004 Apr 5-8

32

66

2

2001 Apr 6-8

29

69

2

1999 Apr 6-7

26

67

7

1997 Mar 24-26

36

59

5

1991 Mar 9-12

14

83

3

1990 Mar 14-17

9

87

4

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