Whereas previous polls showed Americans think the wealthy should pay more, a new poll by The Hill shows that when likely voters are asked about specific tax rates, they believe the wealthy should pay lower rates.
Three out of four respondents chose a tax rate of 30 percent or less, when asked to identify the most appropriate top tax rate for families earning $250,000 or more.
The current top rate, which begins on incomes above about $388,000 for couples filing jointly, is 35 percent. The second highest bracket, 33 percent, is for incomes ranging from about $217,000 to $388,000 for couples filing jointly.
The current tax rates, which were first implemented in the President George W. Bush administration and were extended under President Obama's tenure, are set to expire at the end of 2012. Without changes, the rate will increase to 39.6 percent for the top bracket, followed by brackets of 36, 31, 28 and 15 percent.
Obama has advocated letting the tax cuts expire for the top bracket while maintaining the tax cuts for all the other brackets.
When asked if the wealthy "pay their fair share," a Pew Forum poll conducted in December 2011 showed that 57 percent of Americans believe that the wealthy should pay more in taxes.
In the poll conducted for The Hill by Pulse Opinion Research, respondents were offered a list of rates to choose from ranging from less than 20 percent to more than 45 percent in increments of five percentage points. Twenty-five percent was the most common rate chosen for income above $250,000. Twenty-three percent chose that rate, followed by 21 percent who said the tax rate should be less than 20 percent. Only 13 percent chose a 35 percent tax rate and four percent chose a 40 percent tax rate.
No one said that a 45 percent tax rate was appropriate and only two percent said that the rate should be more than 45 percent.
While there was broad support for lower rates among income groups, the wealthy, those making more than $100,000, were more supportive of higher rates than the less wealthy. Thirty-five percent of them chose rates at 35 percent or above.
There were also some partisan differences. Thirty percent of Democrats chose rates at 35 percent or more, only 18 percent of Republicans thought rates should be that high.
The poll of 1,000 likely voters was conducted on Feb. 23, 2012. The margin of error was not reported.