There has been a vast and important change of mind among the electorate, regarding the issue of taxes.On 13 July 2012, McClatchy Newspapers headlined “Poll: Majority Want Tax Cuts for All, Even the Wealthy,” and reported that, “A majority of Americans [who are registered to vote] want the Bush tax cuts extended for everyone, despite a strong push by President Barack Obama to eliminate them on [only] higher incomes, according to a new McClatchy-Marist poll.
“The poll found 52 per cent of registered voters saying they want all of the tax cuts extended, including the tax cuts for incomes above $250,000, while 43 per cent want the cuts extended just for incomes below that threshhold.”
Contrast that with now: On 11 December 2012, the same people who took that poll, the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, headlined “Slim Majority Thinks Debt Deal Will Be Reached,” and reported that whereas 57% of registered voters favour expiration of the Bush tax cuts on incomes above $250,000 like Obama proposes, only 24% favour expiration of the Bush tax cuts for everyone, and 74% are opposed to that.
So, now, registered voters do want the Bush tax cuts to expire only for incomes above $250,000. Unlike back in July, the electorate now strongly favour Obama’s position, whereas they formerly favoured the Republican position, by a moderate margin.
Registered voters constitute a far more conservative group than all adult Americans, and so there has always been strong support by non-voters for extending the Bush tax cuts on only incomes below $250,000.
Thus, for example, on 2 December 2010, CBS News headlined “CBS News Poll: Most Oppose GOP Tax Plan,” and reported that in a sample of “adults nationwide” instead of just registered voters, 53% wanted the Bush tax cuts to “continue for households < $250K” and 26% wanted them to “continue for all” and this meant that overwhelmingly the Republican position was unpopular amongst all adults.
CBS repeated this polling question for years, and the results have always been similar. So, until recently, there has been, on this matter, a huge difference between what all voting-age citizens want and what all registered voters want – registered voters tend to be vastly more conservative than the U.S. population as-a-whole.
Of course, for any politician seeking election or re-election, all that matters are the smaller group of registered voters. In fact, an even smaller group is all that actually matters to politicians: likely voters. And this sub-group are even more conservative than are the broader sub-group of registered voters.
So, although eligible voters have always been overwhelmingly supportive of the President’s position on this, the people who actually register to vote were not, until just recently – but they are now.
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.