NPR logo NPR/Ipsos Poll: What Do Americans Know About Taxes?

NPR/Ipsos Poll: What Do Americans Know About Taxes?

Credit: Alyson Hurt and Danielle Kurtzleben/NPR NPR hide caption

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Credit: Alyson Hurt and Danielle Kurtzleben/NPR


April 17, 2017; Washington D.C. – Overhauling the tax system is poised to be the next big political debate in Washington, but what do Americans know about taxes?

What percentage of working American's don't pay federal income taxes? Do lower income Americans pay too much in taxes? How much of government revenue comes from personal income taxes?

In the second part of the series called, "What Do You Know?" a new NPR/Ipsos poll seeks to reveal what basic facts Americans know – or don't – about U.S. tax policy, their opinions on if and how it should change. According to the finding, while nothing may be certain except death and taxes, most Americans are not too certain about the taxes part.

"Our latest NPR/Ipsos poll tells us three key facts on Americans' views of taxes," described Cliff Young, President of Ipsos Public Affairs. "One, people don't know much about actual tax policy. The only thing definitive is that they know when taxes are due. Two, most Americans think they should pay less in taxes and the affluent - either individuals or business – should pay more. And three, when thinking about the impact of tax policy on the economy, politics prevails with Republicans saying tax cuts are good having a positive impact on the economy, with Democrats disagreeing."

Key Findings

Americans underestimate the share of working Americans who have zero or negative payroll income tax (the survey gave the options of 11%, 27%, 45%, 63%).

  • Only 21% got it right — right now, around 45% pay no federal income tax. 39% of respondents thought it was 11%, 31% thought it was 27%, and 9% thought it was 63%.

Do lower income Americans pay too much in taxes?

  • Two-thirds of Americans believe lower-income people pay too much income tax (with heavy partisan differences — around 8-in-10 Democrats, 6-in-10 independents, and half of Republicans agreed with that statement).
  • 60% of Americans believe taxes should be lowered for people making $49,000 or less (again, with Democrats and independents being somewhat more likely than Republicans to say those taxes should be lowered).

Americans overestimate how important income taxes are to government revenue, when asked: "True or False: 75 percent of the federal government's revenue comes from personal income taxes?"

  • 49% falsely believed this statement was true, 26% correctly believed this was false, and 25% did not know.

On tax policy, views aren't always all that partisan. Some results found a disconnect between self-identified party affiliation and established party platforms.

  • 45% of Democrats agreed that "federal income taxes should be cut for all income levels.
  • Only about half of Republicans believe that tax cuts for the wealthy lead to economic growth.

Regardless of party Americans believe the tax rate on income from work should be lower than the tax rate on income from wealth.

  • 26% strongly agree tax rates on income should be lower than rates on wealth, 49% somewhat agree, 20% somewhat disagree, 5% strongly disagree.

NPR will air a full story on the survey tonight on All Things Considered. Stations and broadcast times are available at Read more about the NPR/Ipsos poll HERE

About NPR
NPR's rigorous reporting and unsurpassed storytelling connect with millions of Americans everyday—on the air, online, and in person. NPR strives to create a more informed public—one challenged and invigorated by a deeper understanding and appreciation of events, ideas, and cultures. With a nationwide network of award-winning journalists and 17 international bureaus, NPR and its Member Stations are never far from where a story is unfolding. Listeners consider public radio an enriching and enlightening companion; they trust NPR as a daily source of unbiased independent news, and inspiring insights on life and the arts. More information at and following NPR Extra on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

About Ipsos
Ipsos Group S.A. is a global market research and a consulting firm with worldwide headquarters in Paris, France. The company was founded in 1975 by Didier Truchot, Chairman and CEO, and has been publicly traded on the Paris Stock Exchange since July, 1999.


Ben Fishel, NPR Media Relations
Email: mediarelations (at)