Commentary Magazine


Pollsters Divided Over Whether Americans Oppose Tax Hikes

A Quinnipiac poll received a lot of attention this morning after it found that voters favor tax hikes in any deficit plan 67 to 25 percent. Now Rasmussen has released a contradictory poll, indicating that voters oppose tax hikes 55 to 34 percent.

So why the discrepancy? Ed Morrissey points out it might have to do with the way the questions were worded in each of the polls:

The difference might be in the way the questions were asked, being mindful of the Pollster-in-Chief’s warning on survey language.  Rasmussen’s question seems a little more straightforward, if generic:

As part of Legislation to Raise Debt Ceiling Should Congress and President Raise Taxes?

Quinnipiac is more specific:

Do you think any agreement to raise the national debt ceiling should include only spending cuts or should it also include an increase in taxes for the wealthy and corporations?

Morrissey suspects Quinnipiac’s use of the buzzword “wealthy” might have prompted more emotionally-charged responses.

“Quinnipiac would have been better off to have avoided the term — ‘higher income earners’ would have been more accurate, objective, and less prone to the emotional responses that come with “wealthy,” he wrote.

If that’s the case, the polls may tell us more about the power of messaging in this debate than anything else. Americans don’t seem to have any reservations about raising taxes on rich people, which is how the Democrats have been framing the issue. But when faced with the possibility they may be impacted by these tax increases — as Rasmussen’s vague wording suggests — they’re strongly opposed to it. Republicans have been trying to make the case the tax hikes Democrats support will have a disastrous impact on the average American, and this seems to be a compelling argument with voters. But until more affirmative polls come out, we won’t know which party’s narratives has gained the most ground.