Bush Tax Cuts Still Very Unpopular

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JONATHAN CHAIT JULY 28, 2010

Bush Tax Cuts Still Very Unpopular

Wall Street Journal reporter John D. McKinnon thinks that opponents of tax cuts are gaining momentum:

What do voters actually think about the Bush tax cuts?

Recent survey results are mixed, and voters appear to be as divided as the politicians – maybe more. But one trend seems to be that more voters are coming around to the view that taxes shouldn’t be raised on anyone.

A Pew Research poll this month found a narrow divide – 30% said all of the tax cuts should be extended, while 27% said the tax cuts for the wealthy should be repealed, and the rest maintained. That represents a deterioration for congressional Democrats’ position, and an improvement for Republicans: in October 2008, 37% of voters favored repeal of tax cuts for the wealthy, compared with 27% now, while 25% supported keeping all of Bush’s tax cuts, compared with 30% now.

But the poll also clearly reflects that concern is growing about the wisdom of maintaining any of the tax cuts – probably as a result of rising worries about deficits. In the Pew poll 31% said all of the Bush-era tax cuts should be allowed to lapse. In October 2008, 25% favored eliminating all of the tax cuts.

This is a pretty opaque way to describe the data. Here's the straightforward results of the Pew question:

Which comes closer to your view about the tax cuts passed when George W. Bush was president?
30% All of the tax cuts should remain in place
27% Tax cuts for the wealthy should be repealed, while others stay in place
31% All of the tax cuts should be repealed

This is pretty clear. By a 2-to-1 margin, voters want to repeal the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. Now, those who do are split between those who want to repeal the middle-class tax cuts as well -- that is, people who are to the left of the Democrats' position -- and those who want to keep the tax cuts that benefit the non-rich in place. But those who want to keep the tax cuts for the rich are a very small minority. Yes, it's up from 25%, but it's still a distinctly unpopular position.

This is a proxy for a lot of tax debates that occur. The Democrats take the centrist position, the Republicans take an unpopular right-wing position, and the equivalently unpopular position on the left is unrepresented entirely.

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posted in: jonathan chait, wall street journal, george w. bush, john d. mckinnon

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