Poll: Americans back new spending, tax hikes on wealthy, but remain wary of economic impact

President Biden speaks about the COVID-19 response and vaccination program in the State Dining Room of the White House
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Most Americans back new government spending on social programs and favor tax hikes for the wealthy, but remain wary of the broader economic impacts of such proposals, according to a Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll survey released this week.

The poll found that nearly two-thirds of Americans  65 percent  support significant new spending on things like health care, child care and other social welfare programs. But even more  about 68 percent  said that such spending should be limited to currently available funds. Only 32 percent said they would support raising the national deficit by $2 trillion to pay for such efforts.

Likewise, 71 percent of respondents said that the U.S. should work to balance its budget each year rather than running a deficit. Less than one-third  29 percent  believe that the federal budget can have annual deficits. 

Sixty percent oppose raising federal taxes, according to the poll, while 40 percent favor the idea. When it comes to raising income taxes specifically, 66 percent of respondents are opposed, compared to 34 percent who favor such a proposal. 

The poll’s findings suggest a mixed view of the Biden administration’s sweeping spending plans, which together call for roughly $6 trillion in new federal expenditures to transform vast swaths of the U.S. economy and expand social programs in a way that hasn’t been seen in decades.

To be sure, President Biden’s proposals seek to increase taxes for wealthy Americans making more than $400,000 per year, while hiking the corporate tax rate from its current 21 percent to 28 percent. That would still be lower than the 35 percent corporate tax rate that was in place prior to the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Biden has also proposed raising the capital gains and dividend tax rates for those who earn more than $1 million per year. The Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll survey shows a majority of Americans  60 percent opposed to raising the capital gains tax.

“Nothing is more divisive or less understood than the administration’s plan to spend $4 trillion in new spending and increase taxes,” Mark Penn, the co-director of the Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll survey, said.

“While the public is willing to increase health, welfare and infrastructure spending and tax the wealthy, they also want a balanced budget and oppose the capital gains tax plan. They also reject the size of the plan and believe taxes on the rich will spillover to them.” 

While the poll shows that roughly two thirds of Americans support raising income taxes on those making more than $400,000 annually, it also found that a slight majority  53 percent — believe that those tax hikes will have an impact beyond just wealthy Americans. Forty-seven percent said that the proposed tax increase will be limited to those it is meant to target.

Similarly, 64 percent said that raising taxes will cost the U.S. jobs and slow its economic growth. Thirty-six percent said they don’t believe tax hikes will affect the overall economy.

When it comes to raising the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent, Americans are almost evenly split. Fifty-one percent are in favor of the proposal, while 49 percent oppose it.

Similar percentages of Americans are divided on how they see Democrats’ intentions in Washington. Fifty-two percent said that the party is seeking to put in place a “big tax-and-spend welfare state,” according to the poll, while 48 percent see Democrats’ efforts as a way to deal with some of the country’s most challenging problems.

The Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll survey of 1,872 registered voters was conducted from April 27 to 29. It is a collaboration of the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University and The Harris Poll.

Full poll results will be posted online later this week. The survey is an online sample drawn from the Harris Panel and weighted to reflect known demographics. As a representative online sample, it does not report a probability confidence interval. 

Tags Government spending Harvard Harris poll Infrastructure Joe Biden Mark Penn Polling Social programs taxes

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