As the debate about how to deal with the federal deficit heats up, two new polls show that large, bipartisan majorities of Americans support raising taxes on the wealthy, as President Obama has proposed doing.
A central piece of Obama's deficit reduction plan calls for raising taxes on annual income above $250,000. Though tax hikes are generally thought to be unpopular, both a Washington Post/ABC News poll and a McClatchy-Marist survey found that a majority of Americans supported that proposal. What's more, even a majority of Republicans in the Washington Post/ABC News poll said they favored raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans.
In addition, both polls found Americans overwhelmingly opposed to a deficit reduction plan pushed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) that would ultimately privatize Medicare, the federal healthcare program for the elderly. Taken together, those findings show that in the looming deficit debate, Obama may hold an edge in public opinion.
The Washington Post/ABC News survey asked American adults whether they supported or opposed a list of proposals to reduce the deficit. Seventy-two percent of all respondents said they supported raising taxes on annual income over $250,000, including 54% of respondents who said they "strongly" supported that position. Democrats were most supportive of that proposal (91%), but so too were a majority of independents (68%) and Republicans (54%.)
Additionally, 27% said they opposed increasing taxes on income earned beyond $250,000 per year.
In the Marist poll, 64% of registered voters said they supported raising taxes above that same cutoff point, compared to 33% who opposed that plan. A majority of Republicans opposed tax hikes in the Marist poll (54% against verus 43% in favor), though larger majorities of Democrats and independents supported them. Democrats backed the tax increases 83%-15%, while independents supported them by a 63%-34% split.
As for the GOP plan to make cuts to Medicare spending, Marist found that 80% of registered voters opposed that proposal, while only 18% supported it. And in the Washington Post-ABC News poll, cutting Medicare was the least popular proposal offered as a way to reduce the deficit. In that poll, 78% of adults said they opposed that plan, compared to 21% who said they supported it. Further, that survey found that two-thirds of adults thought the structure of Medicare should remain unchanged, while just one-third supported making it into a voucher program as Rep. Ryan has proposed.
Republicans, while pushing for the Ryan plan, have said tax increases are a total non-starter. But as these two polls show, Americans would prefer if the opposite were the case.
The Washington Post poll was conducted April 14-17 among 1,001 adults nationwide. It has a margin of error of 3.5%. Marist's poll was conducted April 10-14 among 1,084 registered voters, and has a margin of error of 3.0%.