By Ben Casselman and Jim Tankersley
New York Times News Service
As leading Democrats roll out proposals to increase taxes on the rich, the American people are largely behind them.
A majority of people support Democratic proposals to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans, according to a poll conducted this month for The New York Times by online research platform SurveyMonkey, though their opinions vary between specific plans. Voters overwhelmingly see income inequality as a problem the government should be trying to address.
Support for taxing the rich cuts across party lines: A majority of Republicans support a proposal from Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a Democratic presidential candidate, to tax a group of the wealthiest Americans on their net worth. Views on raising the top income-tax rate are more sharply split.
The tax-the-rich sentiment is strongest by far among Democrats, who see it as a moral issue. Subscribing to a view expressed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the first-term New York Democrat, nearly two-thirds of Democrats say it is immoral to have an economic system where some people have billions of dollars while others have very little.
Polls by Gallup and other organizations over the decades have regularly found that a majority of Americans believe corporations and the wealthy pay too little in taxes, but voters have frequently elected presidents who cut those taxes, instead.
The Times poll found strong support for a wealth tax akin to Warren’s plan. Sixty-one percent of Americans said they approved of imposing a 2 percent tax on the wealth of households with a net worth of more than $50 million. (Under Warren’s plan, the rate would rise to 3 percent on wealth over $1 billion, but the Times survey didn’t ask about that provision.)
Other Democrats are taking a more traditional approach to taxing the rich: raising income taxes on the highest earners. Ocasio-Cortez has proposed a marginal rate as high as 70 percent on annual income over $10 million. The top rate today is 37 percent, down from 39.6 percent before the Republican tax law that passed in late 2017.
Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal avoids the legal and logistical challenges of Warren’s plan. And it is just as popular with Democrats, 75 percent of whom support the idea. But it is less popular overall. Only a narrow majority of Americans, 51 percent, support the idea. Republicans oppose it by a ratio of more than 2-to-1.