Reason-Rupe Public Opinion Survey

76 Percent Say Charities Would Have Spent Their Tax Dollars As Well or Better than Government


The latest Reason-Rupe poll finds that only 17 percent of Americans think their tax dollars improved society more than had they given that same amount of money to charity or invested it in private businesses. A third say their tax money improved society less than had private charities or businesses spent it, while 4 in 10 say it really makes no difference. In sum, over 70 percent of Americans say private charities or businesses would spend their tax dollars as well as or better than government.

While these were asked as two separate questions, respondents gave generally the same responses regardless of whether it were a private charity or a private business.

Part of the reason so few Americans think their tax bill improved society more than had they given that money to charity or private business, is that they believe government wastes 50 percent of its tax revenue.

Republicans (45 percent) were nearly twice as likely as Democrats (23 percent) to say government spending their tax dollars had less of a positive effect than had private charities spent the money, with similar percentages if private businesses were spending the money.

Those with higher levels of education and income were considerably more likely to say charities would improve society more with their tax dollars than government. For instance, those with college degrees (44 percent) were nearly twice as likely as those with high school diplomas (25 percent) to say charities would have better spent the amount they paid in taxes in 2013. A majority (53 percent) of households making more than $110,000 a year said their tax money improved society less than had they given the money to charity compared to 26 percent of those making less than $45,000 a year.

Younger people are also more likely than older people to say private charities would have improved society more with their tax money: for instance, 40 percent of 18-24 year olds say it improved society less compared to 22 percent of seniors (over age 65).

Even though few say government spending of tax dollars improves society more than charities or private businesses, few endorse "bending the rules" at tax time to reduce ones own tax bill. Instead, most (62 percent) would prefer changing the federal tax system to a flat tax where everyone paid the same percentage of his or her income, and of course government to reduce its spending

Nationwide telephone poll conducted March 26-30 2014 interviewed 1003 adults on both mobile (503) and landline (500) phones, with a margin of error +/- 3.6%. Princeton Survey Research Associates International executed the nationwide Reason-Rupe survey. Columns may not add up to 100% due to rounding. Full poll results, detailed tables, and methodology found here. Sign up for notifications of new releases of the Reason-Rupe poll here.

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  1. “Oh, uh, yeah, charities are more efficient than the government, you’re welcome. Now, let me look at that voting guide to see which Democrat to vote for.”

  2. Nothing to cut

    “Overall, Americans will spend more on taxes than on food, housing, and clothing combined this year.”…..71397.html

  3. Apollcalypse Now!

  4. Those with higher levels of education and income were considerably more likely to say charities would improve society more with their tax dollars than government.

    Maybe it was because the question only allowed a few choices and perhaps because anything else can spend money more rationally than government, but this idea that private charities improve society is based on emotional arguments than rationality. Giving away money to improve some total stranger’s life ends up becoming a zero-sum game: you’re not better off for it unless you feel you’re obtaining a psychic gain by giving away money; and the recipient is still in the same place he was before except with a few bucks in his pocket, without an immediate prospect of becoming productive. Think that there would be NO charity without previous production and savings.

    Society improves when people are productive, when people trade with each other. Civilization started when people got together to trade and to make contracts. As evidence, look at the importance that the ancient Sumerians gave to the act of memorializing contracts and deeds in clay tablets. The ancient Phoenicians did not invent the modern alphabet as a play thing, but to more efficiently draft contracts and obligations. It is trade and production that improve society – NOT charity.

    1. The ancient Phoenicians did not invent the modern alphabet as a play thing, but to more efficiently draft contracts and obligations.

      Also true of the printing press and low cost paper: developed in response to merchant needs/demands in Renaissance Italy.

  5. Private charities must compete with one another, and the donations are voluntary. A bad performing charity can be driven out of business, with more responsible ones taking over. Suppose charity A gets 80% of the money donated to the cause, where 20% goes to operational costs. Charity B gets only 40% of the money to the cause, while 60 % goes to operational costs, and the majority are large salaries to the employees. That is a rather fraudulent charity and would not remain in business long. Individuals would divert future donations to charity A, and the employees of charity B might face lawsuits, etc. One can freely donate to a well run effective charity, or remove their funding from, and thereby punish a horrid charity.

    Go and tell the government you will no longer pay taxes to fund the inefficient charities, as your money is being abused. The war on poverty for instance, costs around 60,000 per family, yet the families receive but a tiny fraction of the money. A program such as this is fraudulent, and if a private charity were to operate in this manner, there would be outrage. No matter, as the govt robs this money regardless of what folks say, and any revocation of consent to be governed or refusal to be extorted will be met with violence.

  6. Yet folks still push for govt charity, because they do not face any consequences for their conspiring to commit theft, or the actual theft that takes place. If there were to be outrage over an abuse of a private charity, even more outrage should be focused on govt charity. Imagine if the Koch brothers went to Pelosi’s house and told her they were GOING to pay for a private charity dedicated to whatever cause, see how fast she would run to the authorities. But when govt does this, it is all the sudden ok. They would rather lick the government boots, then be free and donate to who they want. Sadly they force others to be slaves like them. The same goes for folks who would go to Boehners house and tell him he is GOING to pay for abortion. After his crying, he would run to the authorities and cry about being extorted.

  7. Even Obama gives money to charities instead of donating it to the government he manages, sometimes giving more to charity than he pays in taxes. Libertarians need to copy an idea from the school choice movement and advocate forcing the government to compete for its money via a tax credit for charity rather than a deduction, so you can give $X to charity instead of government. Details on about the idea on this page:…..s-the-poor

    The concept is simple, the details may require thought. Of course non-libertarians would want things like caps to prevent government being completely defunded right away, and libertarians would eventually want government out of the business of deciding what a charity is eventually so after the private sector takes over charity and proves itself, the government involvement should be phased out.

    1. How many times does government need to disprove itself and be forced upon individuals through violence? Private charity is voluntary, and has already proven itself. Good luck trying to phase out things that government does whereby it takes money from productive individuals and wastes it in the further growth of inefficient government.

  8. Counterpoint: the 76% are wrong because most donors choose charities based on the emotional buzz they provide to the donor rather than the actual effectiveness of their work.…

    Of course, they choose politicians the same way, so that it’s not the government is better at spending their money, it’s that both end up being equally bad and for the same reason.

    1. Of course, nobody gives to charity at gunpoint, but hey…

  9. Also for the 62% who claim to favor the flat tax, I wonder what percent think that such a system would raise or lower their tax.

    I’m betting most (having bought into the rhetoric about “the rich” not paying their “fair share”) think a flat tax would push more of the tax burden onto “the rich” rather than pushing more of it onto them.

    1. So 62% support being forced to work for others under a different form of extortion. How wonderful. Sadly that majority can vote others into slavery along with them.

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  11. No matter how you slice it government welfare under the social security act is the establishment of the Christian controlled Acts of Charity; care for the poor, and healthcare. Is it a Charity? no it is what it looks like when government establishes a religion. It is a law made by Congress which establishes the non-secular ACTS of the Corporal Acts of Mercy feed the poor, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, house the homeless, heal the sick and instruct the ignorant. this is exactly the same reason the colonist left Europe because they were taxing them to perform the corporal acts of mercy, which they still do today, because they have no separation of Church and state. Social insurance is a product of Europe but it is unconstitutional here according to Lemon v Kurtzman 403 U.S. 602 @ 612-613 which state “the statute must have a secular purpose” Can the Miracles of God and Jesus Christ be Secular? see

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