Public Attitudes on the Estate Tax

A summary of findings from a national poll of 1,000 likely voters.(1) Reform, Not Repeal A broad majority of Americans support reforming the estate tax to protect small business owners and family farms over permanent repeal that gives more tax breaks to multi-millionaires at the expense of 99 percent of taxpayers.
  • After hearing balanced arguments from both sides of this debate, 58 percent of likely voters support reform that protects small business owners and family farms while only 37 percent support repeal of the estate tax.
  • When voters learn more about the issue, support for reform grows to more than 2-to-1. By a margin of 67 to 27 percent, Americans support reform over repeal once they hear more information about who pays the estate tax and what repeal of the tax would cost.
A Question of Fairness Americans agree now is not a time to be giving tax breaks to multi-millionaires at the expense of 99 percent of American taxpayers.
  • Tax cuts rank 6th out of 8 priorities for the federal budget.
  • Cuts in the estate tax rank dead last among tax cut alternatives offered, a result consistent with polling conducted by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal since 1998.(2)
  • Voters are sharply focused on priorities that benefit all Americans – including increasing spending for education and health care, strengthening Social Security and Medicare, and winning the war on terrorism. We can’t afford to sacrifice these commitments to all Americans by giving away hundreds of billions of dollars to a few multi-millionaires.
Principles for Reform Americans overwhelmingly support reform of the estate tax over a permanent repeal, and they identify the following guiding principles for reform:
  • Protect small business owners and family farmers.
  • Keep 99 percent of American taxpayers exempt from the estate tax.
  • Protect the Social Security and Medicare trust funds.
  • Ensure the federal government can meet its obligations to the war on terrorism, homeland security, education, and health care.
  • Permanent reform that simplifies the law and sets a consistent benchmark for eligibility.
(1) Findings based on a national survey of 1,000 likely voters conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. The survey was conducted May 6-9, 2002 and is subject to a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent. (2) Based on NBC News/Wall Street Journal surveys conducted in July 1998, August 1999, and January 2001
back to Blog