As we recover from the annual collective trauma of tax day, it’s worth looking at Americans’ views on how the tax burden is distributed.
According to recent polling by Gallup, 45% of Americans believe that low-income earners pay too much in federal income tax. That number is a sharp increase from the 39% to 41% that believed this was the case between 2009 and 2014. Dissatisfaction with the tax burden on lowest earners spiked to 51% immediately following the financial collapse of 2007-2008.
Shifting beliefs among Republicans account for this year’s increase. Last year, only a quarter of Republicans believed the poor pay too much in income taxes, while this year a third do.
But the number that has gone up the most in the past decade is the percentage of Americans who believe the poor pay too little in income tax. In 2005, only 10% though the poor underpay. This year 21% think so.
Even more interesting is that Americans tend to be even more sympathetic to the middle class’s tax burden. While 46% believe the middle class pays too much, only 6% say the middle class pays too little.
This could be explained by the fact that Americans tend to self-conceptualize as being part of an amorphous middle class, as any politician’s stump speech will reveal. Half of Americans consider themselves part of the middle class and only a third of the people in the country believe themselves to be lower class.
But if there’s one thing that Americans overwhelmingly agree on, it’s that corporations and the rich pay too little in taxes. Upper-income earners should pay more, according to 62% of Americans. Some 69% also believe that corporations underpay their taxes. The second number is hardly surprising at a time when 15 corporations that posted $23 billion in profits and somehow managed to not pay any taxes at all.