Fifty-seven percent (57%) of voters believe those who earn twice as much as they do are paying less than twice as much in total taxes. A ScottRasmussen.com national survey found that 47% believe those who earn half as much pay less than half as much in taxes.
How much an individual American earns has little effect on these misconceptions. For example, 57% of respondents who make less than $75,000 per year believe people who make twice as much as they do pay less than twice what they do in taxes. An equal 57% of Americans who make more than $75,000 per year make the same mistake (see question wording and crosstab results).
This is consistent with a long history of the broad middle class believing that federal laws benefit the rich and the poor while asking the middle class to bear the burden.
As far as the total share of the tax burden, the wealthiest Americans are paying well more than twice the overall tax bill for median wage earners. In fact, according to the the Wall Street Journal, the top 20% of households will earn 52% of total income… But they will pay about 87% of income taxes, up from about 84% last year.” At the other end of the spectrum, “the lower 60% of households… receive about 27% of total income.” Overall, “this tier will pay no net federal income tax in 2018 vs. 2% of it last year.”
However, some of this discrepancy is offset by payroll taxes. For many Americans, that is the largest part of their tax bill.
These misconceptions likely fuel much of the political rhetoric over who is paying their “fair share” in taxes. But while most Americans seem to think the rich are paying at least somewhat less than what they actually pay in taxes, they do not believe reducing the wealthy of the richest Americans is the best solution for reducing income inequality.
And no matter who is or isn’t paying their “fair share” of taxes, the federal government has been taking in and spending more of our money than ever before. In the just completed fiscal 2018, the federal treasury took in a record $1.68 trillion in income tax revenue, but still ran a $779 billion deficit in that period.
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The national survey of 1,001 Registered Voters was conducted November 18-19, 2018 by ScottRasmussen.com and HarrisX, a polling company specializing in online surveys (see Methodology and a demographic profileof our sample). It has a 3.1 percentage point Margin of Error with a 95% level of confidence.
Neither Scott Rasmussen nor ScottRasmussen.com has any relationship with Rasmussen Reports® (see About Us).