Tax the Rich?


In efforts to make a populist appeal, President Obama declared this afternoon: "I reject the idea that asking the hedge-fund manager to pay the same tax rate as a plumber or teacher is class warfare. I just do." The president announced plans to raise taxes on the wealthy and for a new minimum tax rate on millionaires to ensure that the wealthy whose income may largely derive from capital gains and dividends will have incomes impacted not only by corporate income taxes, but by higher capital gains taxes as well.

Results from the Reason-Rupe poll actually demonstrate a willingness by a majority of Americans to increase taxes on the "wealthy." However these preferences depend greatly on how one defines wealthy. The poll asked the standard question "Do you think the federal government should increase taxes on the wealthy," with 69 percent in favor and 28 percent opposed. However, respondents in favor were then asked what household income they would use to define someone who is wealthy and should therefore pay higher taxes. Respondents consistently listed incomes that were above their own, even high-income respondents, suggesting that people may want to raise taxes, but just not on themselves.

For instance, the interquartile range among those making less than $25,000 a year ranged from $100,000 to $500,000 a year. Yet, those making $100,000-$199,000 defined wealthy as $250,000 to $5000,000. Those making over $200,000 defined wealthy from $300,000 to $1,000,000. The graphic below compares each income group to that groups' preferred definition of the term "wealthy." Each group typically wants to tax those who make more than they do.


Click here for full survey results.

Survey Methods

The Reason-Rupe Q3 2011 poll collected a nationally representative sample of 1200 respondents, aged 18 and older from all 50 states and the District of Columbia using live telephone interviews from August 9th-18th 2011. The margin of sampling error for this poll is ± 3 percent. The margin of error for the GOP presidential race numbers is ± 4.79%. Interviews were conducted with respondents using both landline (790) and mobile phones (410). Landline respondents were randomly selected within households based on the adult who had the most recent birthday. Sample was weighted by gender, age, ethnicity, and Census region, based on the most recent US Census data. The sampling frame included landline and mobile phone numbers generated using Random Digit Dialing (RDD) methods and randomly selected numbers from a directory-listed sample. Clickhere for full methodological details. NSON Opinion Strategy conducted the poll's fieldwork. View full methodology.