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Support Strong For Tax Cut

Most Americans support President Bush's proposal for a sweeping tax cut, which a majority feel will benefit the rich without hurting the U.S. economy, a CBS News poll finds.

However, most Americans plan to save rather than spend the money saved under any tax cut, and a majority believes preserving Social Security and Medicare is more important than cutting taxes.

Fifty-five percent of those surveyed favor Mr. Bush's proposed, $1.6 trillion tax cut and 34 percent oppose it. Most of those who oppose the tax cut would support a smaller tax cut.

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$1.6 Trillion Tax Cut





Support for Mr. Bush's proposal falls along partisan lines, with support stronger among Republicans than Democrats. Seventy-four percent of Republicans support his proposal, and 18 percent oppose it.

However, Democratic support for the president's proposal is fairly strong: While 49 percent oppose the plan, 39 percent of Democrats are in favor of Mr. Bush's tax cuts. And most Democrats want some type of tax relief; nearly three ut of four of those who reject Mr. Bush's math would favor a smaller tax cut.

Support for Mr. Bush's plan is also strong among higher income Americans, with 61 percent of those with incomes over $50,000 favoring his tax cut plan. But even among those with lower incomes, Mr. Bush's tax cut is well received. Nearly half — 47 percent — of those with incomes under $30,000 favor his tax cut plan.

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Preferred size of tax cut










In fact, the president's plan for a large tax cut has been better received than President Reagan's similarly large proposed cut at the outset of his presidency.

Now, 33 percent favor a large tax cut, and 44 percent prefer a smaller one. In January 1981, 24 percent of the public wanted a large tax cut, and 52 percent wanted a smaller one.

However, most Americans don't believe these tax cuts will put much money into their own pockets: 52 percent say it will not make a difference in the amount of money they have to spend, and 39 percent say it will. There is little variation by income level.

Part of the reason most people don't expect to realize financial gains from the tax cuts is that they are perceived to benefit mostly the rich.

Fifty-seven percent say rich people will benefit, and 25 percent think middle income people will. Three percent think the poor will benefit.

Although one of the goals of a tax reduction is to stimulate spending, by two to one Americans say they would put any money they got back as a result of the tax cuts into savings, rather than spending it. Sixty-two percent would save the money, and 31 percent would spend it.

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Impact on the economy

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Even though much of the public doubts the cut will help them, 44 percent feel it will help the economy and 26 percent say a tax cut would neither help nor harm economic growth. A mere 17 percent think a tax cut will hurt the economy.

Republicans have more faith in the cut than Democrats. Among GOP respondents, 65 percent feel the tax cut will help, compared to only about a third of Democrats. Only 7 percent of Republicans feel the tax cut will hurt. One-third of Democrats feel it will be armful.

Mr. Bush's focus on education and tax cuts in the first weeks of his administration has put tax concerns back on the national radar screen.

In this poll, tax cuts emerge as the number two problem, chosen by 13 percent as the single most important problem they would like the president and Congress to address, just after education, mentioned by 14 percent.

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What to do with extra money

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Republicans are about twice as likely as Democrats to name taxes as the most important problem — mentioned by about one in five, taxes is the top priority for Republicans.

Awareness of the tax problems has risen in the months after last year's presidential election. Just before the elections, taxes was volunteered by just 7 percent of registered voters, after Social Security, education and health care.

However, the public is reluctant to use up the budget surplus for tax-cut purposes, and puts saving Social Security and Medicare ahead of cutting taxes as a priority for using the budget surplus #150; as it has consistently done for the past three years.

When asked how they would like the budget surplus to be used, 48 percent say the money should be used to preserve programs such as Social Security and Medicare, and about one in five want to use the money to cut income taxes.

Nevertheless, nearly six in ten Americans believe it is possible to preserve programs like Social Security and Medicare and cut income taxes at the same time. In this poll, 58 percent say it is possible to save Social Security and cut taxes, while 31 percent do not think so. Opinions on this have not changed in the past nine months.

The poll, conducted by telephone February 10-12, 2001, among 1,124 adults nationwide, has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

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