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Polls show most Americans support raising taxes on wealthy

poll graphic for Jennifer De Pinto post, Sept. 23, 2011

On Monday, President Obama unveiled his deficit reduction plan which, in addition to spending cuts, included $1.5 trillion in new tax revenue.

According to the latest CBS News/New York Times Poll, conducted before the president announced his plan, the public supports increasing taxes in order to help reduce the budget deficit - at least on those with higher incomes.

Fifty-six percent of Americans think taxes should be increased on households earning $250,000 a year or higher to help lower the deficit, while 37 percent say taxes should not be raised on those households.

There is a partisan divide here with most Democrats and independents in favor of increasing taxes on this group, while 56 percent of Republicans are opposed.

Still, support for a hike in taxes was slightly higher back in August on the heels of the debt ceiling agreement - 63 percent of Americans favored raising taxes on households earning $250,000 or more, including 52 percent of Republicans.

There is some division within the Republican Party on this issue. Seventy-one percent of Republicans who support the Tea Party movement are opposed to tax hikes on households making $250,000 or more, but among those Republicans who do not support the Tea Party, only 43 percent hold that view. Fifty-two of this group actually supports tax increases on those with higher incomes in order to reduce the deficit.

graphic for Jennifer De Pinto post, Sept. 23, 2011

Historically, Americans have frequently favored increasing taxes on those with higher incomes (often people other than themselves) in the name of deficit reduction. There has been some reluctance on the part of Americans, however, to support increasing their own taxes. For example, in April of this year, 52 percent were unwilling to have their own taxes raised in order to reduce the deficit, according to a CBS News/New York Times Poll. But in a separate question, 72 percent approved of a tax hike starting in 2013 on households earning $250,000 or more.

During the 1990 budget battle, when George H.W. Bush was president (and ultimately broke his "no new taxes" pledge), 86 percent of Americans, including majorities of Democrats and Republicans, were willing to have taxes raised on people earning over $100,000 to help reduce the federal budget deficit, but far fewer - 43 percent - were willing to pay $100 more a year in taxes themselves.

However, in 1993, during Bill Clinton's presidency, there was more willingness on the part of Americans to pay more in taxes to help reduce the deficit - 55 percent were willing to pay $100 more in taxes to reduce the deficit. Still, Gallup Polls conducted that year found far more support for raising taxes on those with higher incomes.

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