Poll: Americans Say They Should Pay No More Than 20 Percent in Taxes

By Christopher Neefus | April 15, 2010 | 3:28 PM EDT

A copy of President Barack Obama's Fiscal 2011 budget plan, which was delivered to the Senate Budget Committee on Monday, Feb. 1, 2010. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

(CNSNews.com) – According to a new poll, a majority of Americans say they are overtaxed and think they should have to pay no more than 20 percent of their income in federal taxes.
Nearly two-thirds of them also do not know that half of the federal budget is consumed by just three items: Defense, Social Security, and Medicare.
National polling firm Rasmussen Reports found that 66 percent of voters believe Americans are overtaxed, while just one in four (25 percent) disagreed -- 9 percent were unsure.
The pollster then asked respondents how much they thought was fair for the government to collect, and an even greater majority (75 percent) said the number should shrink down to a fifth of Americans’ income or less.
Rasmussen asked, “(W)hen thinking about all the services that are provided by federal, state and local governments, how much should the average American pay in taxes as a percentage of their income…10, 20, 30, 40, 50 or more than 50 (percent)?”
For those polled, 43 percent said the average American should pay 10 percent, and 32 percent said the average American should pay 20 percent, combining for a full three-quarters (75 percent) of all voters polled.
Just 13 percent chose a 30-percent tax level, 4 percent chose a 40-percent total tax rate, and nobody chose 50 percent. One percent, however, said Americans should pay more than half their income in taxes.
The firm noted that lower income voters were more likely to believe the nation was overtaxed.
In the news release about the poll, firm President Scott Rasmussen said both political parties in Washington were guilty of a “massive failure of leadership” in not educating the public about what their money actually pays for.
While a plurality (34 percent of respondents) said the average American does pay about 30 percent of his income taxes, which correctly hovers in the middle of the federal tax rates, many did not know where that money was going.
In 2009, a full 50 percent of spending went to just three major expenditures: Social Security, Medicare, and the national defense budget.
However, only 35 percent of the voters polled knew that was the case -- 44 percent contended that was untrue, and another 20 percent were unsure.
 “These figures highlight a massive failure of leadership from both Republicans and Democrats among the nation’s political elite,” Rasmussen said. “Given the amount of political chatter about the budget in recent years, it is almost beyond comprehension that neither party has seen fit to highlight the basics, so that the American people can make reasoned choices on the fundamental issues before them.”
That news comes on the heels of reports that Congress may keep the 2011 federal budget out of the public eye by not considering it before the non-binding but customary April 15 deadline.
Regan LaChapelle, a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), would only tell Politico that the budget “is on a list of things that are possible for this work period.”
Congress could decline to go through the budget process altogether if the leadership decides the issue is too politically volatile going into the November elections.