The Public Rejects Conservative Approaches to Taxes

We’ve heard a lot from conservatives lately about how progressives are seeking to redistribute wealth with their “socialist” tax policies. But so far this critique doesn’t seem to be getting far with the public. There’s a good reason for this: The public actually agrees with progressives’ stance on taxation and rejects the conservative approach.

Data from the latest Pew Research poll shows that only 25 percent of the public agrees with the centerpiece of the conservative tax program: making all of the Bush tax cuts permanent. In contrast, 62 percent want to either repeal tax cuts for the wealthy while keeping the rest of the cuts (37 percent) or repeal all of the tax cuts (25 percent).
Chart One

The same poll shows that the public not only doesn’t want to keep all the Bush tax cuts; it is also sympathetic to the idea that tax increases may be necessary to meet vital national priorities such as reforming health care. The public agrees by 58 percent to 35 percent that the government should guarantee “health insurance for all citizens even if it means raising taxes.”
Chart Two

As usual, the conservatives seem to be having a conversation with a public they wish existed, rather than the one that actually exists. These data suggest that conservatives should reconsider the name-calling about socialism and concentrate instead on advocating tax policies that the public might support. And those policies would start, at minimum, with repealing Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy.