Not All Tax Cuts Are Created Equal in the Tax Cut Deal

The tax cut deal passed in December was broadly popular with the public as numerous polls have confirmed. A mid-December CNN poll showed that 75 percent supported the recently passed bill, which included an extension of Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans, a partial payroll tax holiday, an extension of unemployment benefits, and a reduced estate tax. Just 23 percent were opposed.

But it is important to stress that not all elements of this package were equally popular. Indeed, the CNN data make it crystal clear that the least popular parts of the package were those most dear to conservatives’ hearts: the tax cuts for the rich and the reduced estate tax. Only 37 percent of the public favored the extension of tax cuts for the rich compared to 62 percent who where opposed. Similarly, 39 percent favored the reduction in the estate tax for wealthy Americans while 59 percent were opposed.

These findings stand in stark relief to public views about extending the tax cuts for those making less than $250,000 a year (89 percent in favor/11 percent opposed), extending unemployment benefits (76 percent in favor/22 percent opposed) and a one-year reduction in the Social Security tax (62 percent in favor/36 percent opposed).

Thus, the public sharply differentiates between those elements of the tax cut bill that are broadly helpful to poor and middle-class Americans and those that are basically for the rich. And overall they believe the bill does too much for wealthy Americans. Fifty-six percent say that is the case compared to 35 percent who say the bill does about the right amount and 9 percent who believe the bill does too little.

The tender concern of conservatives in Congress for America’s wealthy citizens and the public’s strong disagreement with that priority are two things that haven’t changed in the new year.

Ruy Teixeira is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. To learn more about his public opinion analysis go to the Media and Progressive Values page and the Progressive Studies program page of our website.