Poll: Public says Obama tax plan more fair, helps economy

Americans by a 2-to-1 margin say raising taxes on those who make more than $250,000 per year would both help the economy and make the tax system more fair, an encouraging sign for President Obama's election-year bid to reform the tax code.

According to a survey released Monday evening by the Pew Research Center, 44 percent say the president's tax proposal would help the economy, while an identical number say the plan would make the tax system more fair. Conversely, 22 percent say the proposed reform would hurt the economy, and 21 percent say it would make the system less fair.

Democrats are more likely to say the plan would help the economy (64 percent) than Republicans are to say it would hurt (41 percent). And independents split 41-18 percent in favor of the plan, an important sign for President Obama as he looks to appeal to swing voters.

The plan is closely associated with the president, with nearly six in 10 correctly identifying the proposal as tied to Obama. 

But the president might need to be more aggressive in promoting his proposal to earn political momentum from the popular plan. Some 20 percent of Americans don't know which candidate wants to raise taxes on income over $250,000, and another 14 percent believe Romney supports the proposal. Moreover, while 35 percent say they have heard "a lot" about the tax debate, four in 10 say they have heard "little" about reforming the tax code, and a quarter of Americans say they have heard nothing at all.

Obama is calling for a one-year extension of the George W. Bush-era tax rates for people who earn $250,000 or less per year. The lower rates are set to expire on Jan. 1. Republicans are pressing for a permanent extension of the rates for all taxpayers, a move Obama has vowed to veto.

The president has integrated arguments for his tax plan into his campaign stump speech in recent weeks.

“Doesn’t it make sense to agree to keep taxes low for the 98 percent of Americans who are working hard and can’t afford a tax hike?” Obama said at a campaign event in Iowa last Tuesday. “For us to give a trillion dollars’ worth of tax breaks to folks who don’t need it ... and aren’t even asking for it — that doesn’t make sense.”

But Romney has cast the proposal as a threat to job creation and said it would continue a trend of sluggish recovery under the Obama administration.

“At the very time the American people are seeing fewer jobs created than we need, the president announces he’s going to make it harder for jobs to be created,” Romney told a crowd last week at a town hall in Colorado. “I just don’t think this president understands how our economy works.” 

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