Reason-Rupe Public Opinion Survey

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

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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.