Polls: Hiking estate tax less popular than taxing mega wealth, income

Americans are proving increasingly receptive to raising taxes on the well-to-do, but new polling suggests that increasing inheritance taxes is not as popular as some other proposals.

In a Hill-HarrisX poll released Friday, registered voters were fairly evenly split on their opinions about the estate tax, with almost equal numbers of people favoring keeping levies on inheritances at the current levels, raising them, or abolishing the tax altogether.

The survey found that 37 percent of respondents said that they wanted to keep the current inheritance tax which applies a 40 percent rate to estates valued at $11.4 million or more and nothing to those valued at a lesser amount. Thirty-two percent said they wanted to increase the estate tax while 31 percent said they wanted to completely eliminate it.

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders says idea he can't work with Republicans is 'total nonsense' Sanders defends Castro comments in wake of backlash from some Democrats Sanders releases list of how to pay for his proposals MORE (I-Vt.) offered legislation on Jan. 31 that would increase inheritance taxes in several ways, one of which is lowering the taxable threshold to $3.5 million.

Republicans have sought to eliminate the estate tax, something President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump suggests Sotomayor, Ginsburg should have to recuse themselves on 'Trump related' cases Sanders says idea he can't work with Republicans is 'total nonsense' Sanders releases list of how to pay for his proposals MORE proposed in his State of the Union address last week. Last month, Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneGOP casts Sanders as 2020 boogeyman McConnell tees up votes on two abortion bills Senate votes to rein in Trump's power to attack Iran MORE (R-S.D.) introduced a bill to do just that.

Boosting the estate tax appears to be less popular than other proposed taxes aimed at the wealthy.

A Jan. 12-13 Hill-HarrisX poll found that 59 percent of registered voters favored increasing the top income tax bracket from 37 percent to 70 percent, an idea recently proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezProgressive Democrat confronts Rep. Cuellar at parade, calls for him to debate her: report Ocasio-Cortez claps back after article on her dress: 'Sequins are a great accessory to universal healthcare' Democrats working to ensure Trump's second term MORE (D-N.Y.).

And Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenCandidates face pressure to exit presidential race Buttigieg proposes undoing SALT deduction cap Bloomberg called Warren 'scary,' knocked Obama's first term in leaked audio MORE's plan to levy an annual wealth tax on fortunes in excess of $50 million was supported by an even larger number of registered voters in a Hill-HarrisX survey conducted Feb. 1-2. In that study, 74 percent of respondents favored the proposal. 

"Folks don't feel like the rich pay enough and we've seen that on a lot of the polling on taxes recently," Eli Yokley, a political reporter with Morning Consult said Friday on "What America's Thinking," Hill.TV's show about public opinion and political research.

"A lot of these plans, from Bernie Sanders, from [Ocasio-Cortez], from Elizabeth Warren have been very popular. And that's something that President Trump's probably thinking about as the Republican [income tax] plan that passed last year has lost popularity with the public," Yokley added.

While support for increasing inheritance taxes appears to be less popular than other tax hike ideas, a Swedish study released in January found that polling respondents were much more likely to support estate taxes when they were given information about how much of the country's fortunes consisted of inherited wealth.

—Matthew Sheffield