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Majority of Likely Voters Support Higher Taxes for Billionaires, Poll Finds

Sen. Ron Wyden’s Billionaires Income Tax proposal enjoys majority support from Democrats and Republicans alike.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos speaks during an Action on Forests and Land Use event on day three of COP26 at SECC on November 2, 2021, in Glasgow, United Kingdom.

As Congress considers a vast array of proposals to raise taxes on the rich, polling has found that proposals to tax billionaires are especially popular among likely voters from all parties.

A November poll of about 1,300 people conducted by Data for Progress found that 67 percent of likely voters believe that billionaires should pay more in taxes, while only 22 percent believe that billionaires already pay enough. Democrats were most likely to say that they believed billionaires should pay more, with 79 percent saying as such. 70 percent of Independents and 53 percent of Republicans responded similarly.

A proposal to tax billionaires’ assets is also popular among likely voters, the poll finds. Sixty-five percent of likely voters polled support taxing billionaires’ unrealized capital gains, with 26 percent opposing. Support is strongest among Democrats, with 81 percent in favor; but a slim majority of Republicans support it too, with 50 percent in support of the proposal and 42 percent in opposition.

After hearing arguments for and against the proposal, likely voters were slightly less supportive of the proposal, with 61 percent in support. Although it gained one percentage point of support among Republicans, this is within the poll’s three-point margin of error.

The polling comes as Democratic lawmakers are considering hiking taxes on the rich as the wealthiest Americans grow exponentially richer during the pandemic. The poll’s question on taxing assets was modeled after a proposal by Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) to “ensure billionaires pay tax every year, just like working Americans,” according to a press release.

The Billionaires Income Tax would levy a tax on tradable assets like stocks, paying a tax on gains and a deduction on losses. Non-tradable assets wouldn’t be subject to the tax until the asset is sold. “For too long billionaires have played by a different set of rules that allow them [to] cheat the system and pay nothing in taxes,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) in support of the proposal.

Wyden’s proposal is a weaker version of Warren’s wealth tax, which would levy a tax on all wealth above $50 million, with a higher tax rate for people with wealth over $1 billion. Currently, billionaires are often able to dodge taxes nearly entirely due to various loopholes and policies that allow them to accumulate infinite wealth with little to no regulation.

The Billionaires Income Tax, which was at one point being considered for inclusion in the Build Back Better Act, would only tax a portion of the roughly 745 billionaires in the U.S. currently, up from 614 in March 2020. Though the proposal is relatively narrow, it is estimated that it would bring in $557 billion in revenue — nearly a third of the reconciliation bill’s price tag.

But lawmakers have overwhelmingly cooled on the idea of including any sort of wealth tax in the bill. Its main revenue raisers are some mild proposals to raise taxes on the wealthy and empower the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to go after wealthy tax dodgers. Meanwhile, the state and local tax (SALT) break that conservative Democrats insisted on including could end up giving millionaires a tax break, according to some estimates.

Previous polling has also found that levying taxes on the rich is widely popular among the public, despite many Republicans and right-wing Democrats’ opposition to such proposals. Allowing unpopular politicians like Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) to dictate Democrats’ tax and social policies weakens their stance — and such a regressive tax policy could end up hurting Democrats in the upcoming 2022 midterms.