Why Do (Some) Ordinary Americans Support Tax Cuts for the Rich? Evidence From a Randomized Survey Experiment
85 Pages Posted: 19 Aug 2021
Date Written: August 17, 2021
Why do (some) ordinary citizens support tax cuts for the rich? A prominent explanation in the political economy literature stresses the role of unenlightened self-interest. According to this view, citizens consistently fail to gauge whether they are directly affected by tax policy reforms. We use a randomized survey experiment in the US to identify the drivers of preferences for cutting taxes on the rich. The results show that informing individuals of whether they are directly affected by a cut in the top federal income tax rate has no impact on preferences. We therefore find no support for the unenlightened self-interest explanation. In contrast, we find preferences for taxing the rich are fundamentally affected by information that shifts citizens' core fairness beliefs, as well as information on the past trajectory of top tax rates. Our results therefore align with explanations of tax policy preferences that emphasize the importance of fairness perceptions and reference points.
Keywords: Top Income Tax, Distributive Preferences, Top 1%, Tax Cuts
JEL Classification: D63, D83, D91, H24
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation