Complaining about taxes is a well-known American pastime. It doesn’t really matter whether the current tax rate is historically high or low, or how our tax rates compare internationally – for the last decade plus around 50% of Americans will say taxes are too high. There is greater variation historically, for sure, but right now demographics seem to be working to keep opinion on the subject split right down the middle.

Tax Gallup Poll

The percentage of Americans who believe federal income taxes are set too high increased from 46% in 2012 to 52% in 2013, according to a recent Gallup poll.

Gallup statement

“The lower percentage since 2003 who say their taxes are too high most likely reflects the effect of the 2001 and 2003 income-tax cuts passed during George W. Bush’s administration,” Gallup said in a recent statement. “Prior to Bush’s presidency, as many as 69% of Americans felt their taxes were too high.”

Democrats versus Republicans

Not surprisingly, the most recent Gallup poll showed that opinions about taxes broke down along partisan political lines. The data showed that more than 55% of Democrats believe taxes are “about right,” while only 38% of Republicans and 36% of independents hold the same belief.

Furthermore, 69% of the Democrats polled responded that their taxes are fair, compared to just  46% of Republicans and 51% of independents.

Almost no one thinks taxes are too low

This year’s Gallup tax poll also highlights the interesting psychological conundrum that almost no one describes their taxes as being “too low”. In fact, no more than 4% of Americans have ever described their taxes as “too low” in the 60 years Gallup has been conducting its tax poll.

It’s pretty obvious that patriotism also plays a role in perceptions about taxes. In February 1944, at the height of the Second World War, 90% of Americans reported their taxes were fair. Just two years later in 1946, the percentage of Americans who thought their taxes were fair had plummeted to just 60%.