The first tax day since the Occupy Wall Street movement emerged is around the corner, and polls show most Americans think the amount they pay in federal taxes is fair, even if their richer neighbor is still getting off easy.
The Republican-leaning American Enterprise Institute released its annual compilation of public opinion data on taxes Monday, the analysis concluding, among other things, that the most unpopular burden is the local property tax, not federal income taxes as was the case in the Reagan era. And though the authors of the report conclude that ‘Occupy’ has failed to substantially change attitudes on tax fairness, one could just as easily highlight the consistent majority backing higher tax rates for the wealthiest one percent of Americans, a reminder that the movement was able to pick up so much steam because its core refrain has broad public support.
57 percent of Americans think their federal income tax is fair, but 59 percent think “upper-income people” pay too little. Though his advantage on the tax question has dropped since he took office, President Obama appears to have the upper hand, one poll showing him edging Romney on the issue and surveys consistently finding as many as two thirds of Americans support the “Buffett Rule,” the president’s proposal to ensure all Americans pay at least 30 percent of their income, including investments, in taxes.
Which represents a continued communications victory for the Obama team. As the authors of the report note, GOP presidential candidates typically clean up among voters most concerned about taxes; George W. Bush won the 9 percent of voters focused on tax rates in 2004 by a margin of 61-38 percent, according to exit polls. But Obama was able to effectively neutralize the issue in 2008 by flooding the airwaves with ads promising he would cut taxes for 95 percent of Americans. A repeat victory on the tax issue would be a key part of the puzzle in his re-election effort.