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Poll: Most Think Some Bush Tax Cuts Should Expire

CBS News Poll analysis by the CBS News Polling Unit: Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus and Anthony Salvanto.

The tax cuts enacted under President George W. Bush are set to expire at the end of the year, and Democrats and Republicans will spar this fall over whether to extend them for all Americans, or to allow the tax cuts to expire for the richest Americans.

A new CBS News poll finds that a majority of Americans, 56 percent, say the tax cuts should expire for households earning over $250,000 per year, as Democrats have proposed. Thirty-six percent of Americans say they should not be allowed to expire.

As CBS News Capitol Hill Producer Jill Jackson reported on Hotsheet last week, Democrats want to permanently extend tax cuts for taxpayers falling in the 10, 25 and 28 percent tax brackets. Taxpayers falling in the 33 percent bracket move up to 35 if they make over $250,000 as a family. The 35 percent bracket then goes up to 39 percent.

Republicans are calling that the largest tax increase in U.S. history and are calling for an extension of all the tax cuts. Democrats counter that extending tax cuts for the wealthy is fiscally irresponsible. (Read more about the debate and proposals here.)

The CBS News poll, conducted Aug. 20 - 24, shows that Democrats favor letting those tax cuts expire, while Republicans are split on the issue. Forty-eight percent of Republicans say the tax cuts should expire, while 46 percent think they should be made permanent.

And despite the Obama administration's plan to allow tax cuts to expire for those earning $250,000 or more, 27 percent of Americans see the administration's policies as favoring the rich. Eighteen percent say they favor the middle class, and 17 percent say they favor the poor.

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Still, 28 percent say the Obama administration's policies treat all groups equally.

As many as 39 percent of Republicans say the administration's policies favor the rich, while 25 percent of Republicans say they favor the poor and 13 percent say they favor the middle class.

Among Democrats, 44 say the administration's policies treat all groups the same. Another 29 percent say they favor the middle class, while 19 percent say they favor the rich.

In assessing the U.S. economy, Americans see a system that favors the few: 62 percent say only those at the top now have a chance to prosper and get ahead, while 35 percent still think anyone has a chance to get ahead.

The poll also found that overall views of the economy remain bleak: four in five think it is bad, and now a third say it is getting worse, an increase since last month. And while most think it will eventually recover, more than a third think it is in permanent decline.

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Read the Complete Poll
This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1,082 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone August 20-24, 2010. Phone numbers were dialed from random digit dial samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher.

This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

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