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Majority of Americans Continue to Support Bush's Tax Cut Plan

by Wendy W. Simmons

Bush's job approval and favorable ratings remain high

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- The House of Representatives voted Thursday to approve the first phase of President Bush's $1.6 trillion across-the-board tax cut. According to the most recent Gallup poll, conducted March 5-7, 2001, a majority of Americans (56%) favor these cuts. Thirty-four percent oppose them. Support for the tax plan has remained remarkably steady -- between 52% and 56% -- for the past two months, despite Bush's intense efforts to build higher levels of support for the plan and equally strong arguments against his plan from Democrats. A review of public opinion on tax cuts, however, shows that the issue is complicated. The data suggest that Americans may be receptive to bipartisan efforts to tie any tax cuts directly to the surplus. They may also be receptive to parts of an alternative tax plan proposed by Democrats.

Support for Tax Plan Highly Partisan
Despite Bush's efforts to build a bipartisan consensus on his tax plan, the vote in the House was largely along party lines. According to this week's poll, the public is similarly divided. Support for Bush's tax plan is highly partisan, as 81% of Republicans support it, compared to just 32% of Democrats. Independents are slightly more likely to favor the plan (47%) than oppose it (35%).

Likewise, support for the tax legislation is highly correlated with one's ideology, although ideology is not as good a predictor as party identification. Conservatives are the most likely to favor the cuts -- 70% favor them and 23% oppose them. Most moderates (57%) also support the tax plan, but less than a third of liberals (30%) like the idea.

President Bush has been arguing that the slowing economy is in need of a jump-start in the form of a tax cut, while congressional Democrats assert that the country cannot afford a tax cut of the size the president is proposing. Interestingly, an analysis of the data from the most recent poll does not show a strong relationship between a negative perception of the economy in its current condition and a desire for a tax cut. In fact, it is just the opposite. Those who think the economy is currently in "good" or "excellent" shape are more likely to favor tax cuts than are those who think it is in "fair" or "poor" condition (62% vs. 51%).

Americans Want to Keep Budget Balanced and Have Tax Cuts
Although the cut in tax rates passed narrowly in the House, the legislation will likely face more serious opposition in the Senate, which is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. One concern opponents have about Bush's tax plan is that it will lead to large deficits if the projected surpluses do not materialize. Senators Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Evan Bayh (D-Indiana) have proposed legislation that would tie the tax cuts to the surplus -- a so-called "trigger mechanism." If this measure were enacted, the phasing in of tax cuts would be dependent on whether the surplus materializes.

Although Gallup has not asked the public about this particular idea, other data suggest that it has the potential to resonate well, as many Americans seem to have some of the same concerns that the centrists in Congress have. In a poll conducted February 9-11, 53% of Americans agreed with the premise that the Bush plan would cause a federal budget deficit and 57% thought it would take money away that is needed for Social Security.

In the same survey, the public was asked to rate each of six priorities for the Bush administration. As can be seen in the table below, "cutting federal income taxes" comes in dead last. "Keeping the federal budget balanced" ranks much higher than cutting taxes, suggesting that legislators who wish to cut taxes only as the surplus allows should fare well in the court of public opinion.

How important is it that the Bush administration does each of the following? Is it a top priority, high priority, low priority, or not a priority at all? [RANDOM ORDER]

TOP/HIGH PRIORITY SUMMARY TABLE

 

 

Top
priority

High
priority

Top/High
priority

 

%

%

%

       

Improving education

49

44

93

Keeping America prosperous

43

50

93

Dealing with the energy problems facing the nation

38

48

86

Keeping the federal budget balanced

36

50

86

Providing military security for the country

36

46

82

Cutting federal income taxes

28

39

67



Some of the support for Bush's tax plan probably reflects Americans' general tendency to like the idea of tax cuts in the abstract. According to a poll conducted in September of last year, 74% of Americans favored a "cut in federal income taxes." Over 70% of Americans have consistently favored such a proposal during the last 25 years. However, when respondents are given a choice between two different types of tax cuts, the picture becomes more complicated. The Democrats in Congress have proposed legislation with smaller tax cuts that are targeted to specific groups, rather than across-the-board cuts. In the September 2000 poll, when presented with a choice between across-the-board cuts and targeted tax cuts to fix certain problems, Americans were split down the middle -- 41% favored the broader cuts, while 44% favored targeted cuts and 10% favored no cuts at all. However, when the question specified that the targeted cuts would go only to people making less than $70,000 a year, a majority (51%) supported the targeted cuts and about a third favored the broader cuts.

Bush's Approval and Favorable Ratings Remain High
In the midst of this tax-cutting debate, Bush's job approval remains a healthy 63%. Twenty-two percent of Americans disapprove of Bush's job performance and 15% do not have an opinion either way. Ninety percent of Republicans approve of the job Bush is doing, compared to just 38% of Democrats. Forty-one percent of Democrats but almost no Republicans (3%) disapprove. Twenty-one percent of Democrats and 7% of Republicans are reserving judgment on Bush's job performance, as they do not register an opinion either way on this question. Since Bush assumed the presidency, a majority of Americans have approved of Bush's job performance across four different Gallup polls. Similarly, Bush is enjoying a 69% favorable rating from the public. This figure includes a 94% favorable rating from Republicans, 52% from independents and 46% from Democrats.

Survey Methods

The results reported here are based on telephone interviews with randomly selected national samples of 1,008, 1,016, and 1,060 adults, 18 years and older, conducted September 11-13, 2000, February 9-11, 2001 and March 5-7, 2001, respectively. For results based on these samples, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Based on what you have read or heard, do you favor or oppose the federal income tax cuts President Bush has proposed?

 

Favor

Oppose

No opinion

 

%

%

%

       

2001 Mar 5-7

56

34

10

       

2001 Feb 19-21

53

30

17

2001 Feb 9-11

56

34

10

2001 Jan 5-7 ^

52

33

15

       

^

WORDING: Based on what you have read or heard, do you favor or oppose the federal income tax cuts George W. Bush has proposed?



If President Bush is able to enact his tax cut plan, how likely is it that each of the following would happen -- very likely, somewhat likely, not too likely, or not at all likely? How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

A. It would cause a federal budget deficit

 

Very
likely

Somewhat likely

Not too
likely

Not at all likely

No
opinion

           

2001 Feb 9-11

20%

33

29

13

5



B. It would take money away that is needed to protect Social Security

 

Very
likely

Somewhat likely

Not too
likely

Not at all likely

No
opinion

           

2001 Feb 9-11

30%

27

22

17

4



Which of the following would you prefer to see Congress pass next year -- [ROTATED: broad, across-the-board tax cuts (or) targeted tax cuts to alleviate specific problems (or) no tax cuts at all]?

BASED ON -- 506 -- NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM A; ± 5 PCT. PTS.

 

Broad, across-the-board

Alleviate specific problems


No tax cuts

MIXED/NEITHER (vol.)

No
opinion

2000 Sep 11-13

41%

44

10

1

4



Which of the following would you prefer to see Congress pass next year -- [ROTATED: broad, across-the-board tax cuts (or) targeted tax cuts benefiting mostly those making less than $70,000 a year (or) no tax cuts at all]?

BASED ON -- 502 -- NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM B; ± 5 PCT. PTS.

 


Broad, across-the-board

Those making
less than
$70,000 a year



No tax cuts


MIXED/NEITHER (vol.)


No
opinion

2000 Sep 11-13

33%

51

14

*

2



Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president?

 

 

 

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

 

%

%

%

       

2001 Mar 5-7

63

22

15

       

2001 Feb 19-21

62

21

17

2001 Feb 9-11

57

25

18

2001 Feb 1-4

57

25

18



Next, we'd like to get your overall opinion of some people in the news. As I read each name, please say if you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of this person -- or if you have never heard of him or her. How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

A. George W. Bush

 


Favor-
able


Un-
favor-
able

Never heard of


No opin-
ion

   


Favor-
able


Un-
favor-
able

Never heard of

No opin-
ion

 

%

%

%

%

   

%

%

%

%

2001

                   

(NA) 2001 Mar 5-7

69

28

*

3

 

(NA) 2000 Jul 25-26

63

31

*

6

           

(NA) 2000 Jul 14-16

64

29

*

7

(NA) 2001 Feb 19-21

67

27

*

6

 

(NA) 2000 Jun 23-25

60

31

0

9

(NA) 2001 Feb 1-4

64

33

*

3

 

(NA) 2000 Jun 6-7

64

29

0

7

(NA) 2001 Jan 15-16

62

36

*

2

 

(NA) 2000 Apr 28-30

61

33

*

6

           

(NA) 2000 Mar 10-12

63

32

*

5

2000

         

(NA) 2000 Feb 25-27

57

35

1

7

(NA) 2000 Dec 15-17

59

36

1

4

 

(NA) 2000 Feb 20-21

58

35

*

7

(NA) 2000 Dec 2-4

56

40

*

4

 

(NA) 2000 Feb 4-6

63

31

0

6

(NA) 2000 Nov 13-15

53

43

*

4

 

(NA) 2000 Jan 17-19

66

26

*

8

(RV) 2000 Nov 13-15

54

43

*

3

           

(RV) 2000 Nov 4-5

55

39

*

6

 

1999

       

(RV) 2000 Oct 24-26

62

33

*

5

 

(NA) 1999 Dec 9-12

68

25

1

6

(RV) 2000 Oct 23-25

60

35

*

5

 

(NA) 1999 Oct 21-24

71

21

1

7

(RV) 2000 Oct 20-22

59

37

*

4

 

(NA) 1999 Oct 8-10

70

25

1

4

(RV) 2000 Oct 5-7

58

36

*

6

 

(NA) 1999 Sep 23-26

71

22

1

6

(RV) 2000 Sep 28-30

55

38

0

7

 

(NA) 1999 Aug 16-18

68

21

1

10

(RV) 2000 Sep 15-17

51

41

1

7

 

(NA) 1999 Jun 25-27

69

16

4

11

(NA) 2000 Aug 18-19

60

34

*

6

 

(NA) 1999 Apr 13-14

73

15

3

9

(NA) 2000 Aug 4-5

67

28

*

5

 

(NA) 1999 Feb 19-21

69

12

5

14

                     
                     

(NA) National Adults

                   

(RV) Registered Voters

(vol.) Volunteered response

* Less than 0.5%

 
Gallup


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