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Fiscal cliff: Poll shows Americans prefer increasing taxes on rich

By Alan Fram and Jennifer Agiesta

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 01:41 p.m. HST, Dec 05, 2012

WASHINGTON » Americans prefer letting tax cuts expire for the country's top earners, as President Barack Obama insists, while support has declined for cutting government services to curb budget deficits, an Associated Press-GfK poll shows. Fewer than half the Republicans polled favor continuing the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy.

There's also a reluctance to trim Social Security, Medicare or defense programs, three of the biggest drivers of federal spending, the survey released today found. The results could strengthen Obama's hand in his fiscal cliff duel with Republicans, in which he wants to raise taxes on the rich and cut spending by less than the GOP wants.

As Obama and Republicans joust over ways to avoid tumbling over the cliff when the new year begins, the poll offers scant evidence that the public is willing to sacrifice much when it comes to specific cuts in the name of budget austerity.

Social Security, Medicare and defense account for just over half the $3.8 trillion the government is projected to spend this year. Voters typically voice support for deficit reduction but shy away from painful, detailed cuts to achieve it.

In the poll, 48 percent said tax cuts should expire in January on earnings over $250,000 but continue for lower incomes. An additional 32 percent said the tax cuts should continue for everybody, which has been the view of Republican lawmakers who say raising taxes on the wealthy would squelch their ability to create jobs. Thirteen percent said the tax cuts dating back to 2001 and 2003 should end for all.

"If you are fortunate and have some extra, you need to help those who don't," said Robin Keck, 49, of Golden Valley, Minn., who owns a framing business and supports ending tax cuts for the rich. "I believe people who have more money generally find more uses for it than putting other people to work."

A November 2010 AP-CNBC poll showed similar support for allowing the cuts to expire for people with the largest incomes. Polling earlier in that year had shown a preference for continuing the cuts for everyone, including the wealthy.

Support for renewing the tax cuts for everyone has ebbed among Republicans since 2010, dropping from a high of 74 percent just after the GOP recaptured the House in that year's elections to 48 percent now. Among Democrats, support for allowing tax cuts for the wealthy to expire was a robust 61 percent, though down slightly from two years ago.

Unless the two parties strike a deal, the new year will begin with the triggering of broad spending cuts plus tax boosts on almost every taxpayer. Economists warn that the brew of sharp deficit cuts — nicknamed the fiscal cliff — could revive the recession.

The battle is occurring when the public trusts the two parties about equally to handle the deficits. Democrats have a slight edge on handling taxes but enjoy a much bigger preference when it comes to addressing Medicare, according to the poll.

Obama was re-elected last month insisting that taxes be raised on the rich as their contribution to deficit reduction. He has proposed continuing Bush-era tax cuts for all but the country's top earners, letting taxes rise on income exceeding $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples.

Though Republican lawmakers have long opposed raising taxes on the highest earners, GOP leaders have proposed curbing unspecified tax deductions to avert the fiscal cliff, raising revenue that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, says could come from upper-income people.

The new poll found that, by 46 percent to 30 percent, more favor cutting government services to raising taxes to tackle budget deficits. That sentiment echoes the view of the GOP, which has emphasized spending cuts during four years of budget battles with Obama.

Yet support for trimming government services has dropped in AP-GfK polls. It was 56 percent last February and 62 percent in March 2011.

Still, Ray Wilkins, 58, of Belton, Mo., a warehouse worker, said, "The government's gotten too big. The federal government tries to do just about everything."

Thirteen percent said budget balancing efforts should focus equally on service cuts and higher taxes, more than doubling that sentiment in previous polls.

When it comes to specifics, people are leery.

By 48 percent to 40 percent, more oppose proposals to gradually raise the eligibility age for Medicare from 65. Only 3 in 10 support slowing the growth of annual Social Security benefits. And more people oppose than favor cutting military spending.

Sentiments about culling savings from Social Security and Medicare were similar among Democrats and Republicans. The strongest opposition to raising the Medicare eligibility age came from people ages 30 to 64. People 50 to 64 were most opposed to slowing the growth of Social Security benefits.

Just over half of Democrats favor cutting defense; two-thirds of Republicans oppose it.

People were about evenly split over an idea voiced by defeated GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney to put a dollar limit on taxpayers' deductions.

Another idea — ending the tax deduction for home mortgage interest in exchange for lower income tax rates — was favored 42 percent to 33 percent, slightly less support than the proposal received in 2010. Homeowners were closely divided over the proposal.

Just over half the poll respondents say they doubt Obama will be able to reduce budget deficits during his remaining four years in office. In his first days in office in 2009, more people than not thought he would be able to do so.

The poll found little change in the nation's partisan makeup after the contentious presidential election campaign, with 33 percent saying they consider themselves Democrats, 23 percent Republicans and 27 percent independents. That's about the same as in AP-GfK polling over the past six months.

The Associated Press-GfK poll was conducted Nov. 29 to Dec. 3 by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications. It involved landline and cellphone interviews with 1,002 adults nationwide. The survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

AP news survey specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.

Poll: Fiscal cliff

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AhiPoke wrote:
Duh. Most of us aren't "rich" so why would we want to pay more taxes? The issue is what will solve our country's economic problems. Based on everything that I know, only taxing the rich will not do it. The problem is spending, stupid!!!
on December 5,2012 | 12:55PM
kainalu wrote:
Pointed this out in the other thread. The majority of Americans - and that majority grows with each passing week - support Obama's tax plan - Bush's tax cuts remain in place for the 97% less-fortunate of us. Those nearly 3% more-fortunate of us will have their codes reverted back to what they were before Bush cut them.
on December 5,2012 | 01:15PM
Carang_da_buggahz wrote:
Will someone please tell me; At WHAT point are people paying their "Fair Share"? You could tax the richest people in this country for all their income and property, and it STiLL wouldn't even come close to paying off the Anointed One's drunken spending spree. Demonizing the rich works for the majority of people who haven't even got the math skills of a 5 year old, and it apparently worked enough to get him reelected. Most people really do not understand what is at stake here, standing at the edge of the so-called Fiscal Cliff. I find it quite absurd that this argument was being waged years ago, but no one on the Left wanted to hear that, at least not until after Dear Leader won reelection. Now we're in crisis mode? We've been saying all along, CUT THE SPENDING! But, no. There's always more where that came from, eh? Our grandchildren's grandchildren will be paying off this mess because WE did not have the financial acumen nor the political will to rein in the spending. It's easy to spend all that money when it's "someone else" footing the bill, ain't it? How shameful.
on December 5,2012 | 01:47PM
AniMatsuri wrote:
That's probably the beauty of it all. Get everyone's minds off cutting the spending. Instead demand the "rich" pay more even though that amounts to punishing anyone still making $250K(on paper at least)or more like that's going to cure eveything when at the very least all it does is make eveyone feel better that there are more people suffering with out solving anything since it still amounts to a drop in the bucket as far as money needed to balance the budget.
on December 5,2012 | 03:40PM
hawaiikone wrote:
Why are you concerned? An astute commenter on these forums just the other day mentioned that nations loan other nations money without any expectations of repayment. Therefore I don't really see any problem with Obama just filling out some more IOU's and asking China for a few trillion more. Problem solved! Of course when bread costs a couple hundred dollars we may have to go back for some more....
on December 5,2012 | 06:03PM
localcitizen wrote:
This just slows down, gradually eliminates, investment by those that both can afford to invest, and have the ability Foolish, selfish, short term, me first thinking France is losing its people by higher taxes. We will too This is just plain stupid. People pulling the wagon while the majority sits inside complaining, while investing nothing, doing nothing. Bye bye condo my. You will see...
on December 5,2012 | 01:52PM
serious wrote:
Agreed, if I were signing my income checks on the back rather than the front I would vote to get those rich guys also. Dumb. Our future is at stake and we--or HE encourages people to be on welfare. Romney lost because he wanted people to have jobs!!! Not me--I'll take the fed check!!!!
on December 5,2012 | 04:16PM
AniMatsuri wrote:
So that's it? We're down to mob rule now? Unless Obama gets what he wants we're all going to get tossed off the cliff?
on December 5,2012 | 02:03PM
Denominator wrote:
Two wolves and a lamb voting on what's for dinner.
on December 5,2012 | 02:43PM
64hoo wrote:
increasing taxes on the rich would only help the defecit for only 8.5 days which is about maybe 6 billion from the trillions of defecit were in. and all obama will do is spend the money and were right back where we started from. plus it will hurt small business and few hundred thousand people will get laid off. so go ahead tax the rich so all the dumbocrats can see what a stupid idea that is. the best way is cut spending,cut spending and cut spending that will help the economy get back on its feet
on December 5,2012 | 05:18PM
lee1957 wrote:
The masses are asses. The only result from the current political climate is a cataclysmic implosion of the U. S. economy cause by a collapse of the dollar.
on December 5,2012 | 05:37PM
bigman50 wrote:
Me, me, me, The me generation wants benefits for themselves and have someone else pay for it. Typical selfishness is going to be the demise of our country. A better question is how many taxpayers are wiling to pay more, a lot more for the services they already receive?
on December 5,2012 | 05:44PM
kalaoa wrote:
It just means that people agree that someone else can/should be taxed to a greater extent. People do not seem themselves as the "rich", but it will still trickle down to us all. Can not just tax and spend; more and more.
on December 5,2012 | 09:09PM
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