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Jonathan Small

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Most likely Oklahoma voters say the current tax system is unfair and just over half say they would prefer a flat tax system with one marginal rate, according to a SoonerPoll survey.

When asked if the income tax system currently used by the state and federal government is fair or unfair, 59 percent of respondents said unfair and 34.2 percent said fair.

A 50.4 percent majority prefer a tax system that imposes the same tax rate on all taxpayers by taking the same percentage of income from everyone regardless of how much an individual earns.

By comparison, 40.2 percent said they prefer the kind of tax system currently used in the United States, which imposes a higher tax rate on those with higher incomes.

“It just makes sense that if you’re going to have a tax, everyone should pay the same rate,” Jonathan Small, Fiscal Policy Director at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, said. “Sales taxes, property taxes, fuel taxes, and a host of other taxes are not based on income. The concept of a flat rate is present in almost every other area of life.”

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Results indicate that 53.6 percent of respondents that said the current tax system is unfair also prefer the flat tax, while 37.4 percent still prefer a progressive tax system.

Over the past several months, many Republican presidential primary candidates have embraced flat tax plans as part of their campaign.  Candidates who embrace the flat tax often face criticism from those who say a single marginal tax on all Americans would adversely affect lower income Americans.

Despite the criticism, results indicate that 46.9 percent plurality of likely Oklahoma voters who make less than $35,000 a year prefer the flat tax to the progressive tax system.  By comparison, 54.3 percent of respondents that make $100,000 a year or more prefer the flat tax.

“No one wants everything they do judged by their income,” Small said.  “What will really help all Oklahomans is having more of their own income to spend, produce jobs, and charitably give as they see fit.”

Additional crosstab analysis reveals that a majority of all parties think the current tax system is unfair.  When examined by political label, the results reveal that a plurality of liberals and a majority of both moderates and conservatives agree that the current income tax system is unfair.

Results also indicate that a 59.1 percent majority of Republicans prefer the flat tax, while a 58.6 percent majority of Independents and a 47.1 percent plurality of Democrats prefer a progressive tax.

A 57.3 percent majority of liberals and a 53.2 percent majority of moderates prefer a progressive income tax, while a 59.7 percent majority of conservatives prefer a flat tax system.

SoonerPoll.com, Oklahoma’s public opinion pollster, commissioned and conducted the scientific study using live interviewers by telephone of 512 likely voters from Nov. 17 – Dec. 6. The study has a margin of error of ± 4.3 percent.

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A SoonerPoll conducted in May reveals that 54.4 percent of likely Oklahoma voters think the current tax burden is too high. By comparison, 32.6 percent of respondents said they think the tax burden is about right and only 3.3 percent of respondents said the tax burden is too low.

Respondents were read the following question: “According to the Tax Foundation, the average Oklahoman worked from January 1 until April 2, 2011 to earn enough money to pay this year’s tax obligations at the federal, state and local levels. That’s a total tax burden of roughly 25 percent. Do you think this tax burden is too low, too high, or just about right?”

“These results demonstrate that a majority of Oklahoma voters are rightly concerned with the amount of effort that the average taxpayer has to expend to fund government,” Jonathan Small, CPA and OCPA fiscal policy director, said.  “Oklahoma families are experiencing rising costs in order to purchase essentials such as gasoline, food, clothing and health care. Yet despite a recession, state government spending continues to climb, reaching an all-time high of $16.6 billion in Fiscal Year-2010.”

OCPA’s Brandon Dutcher on Taxes

Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs President Michael Carnuccio asks the Vice President for Policy Brandon Dutcher for his take on the latest SoonerPoll results concerning taxes.


When broken down by political party, the results reveal a similar “too low” response rate from Republican and Democratic respondents as 3.4 and 3.6 percent respectively answering “too low.” However, results also indicate that Republicans are 11.4 percentage points more likely to think the tax burden is too high while Democrats are 8.8 percentage points more likely to say “just about right.”

On the same poll, respondents were asked the following open‐ended question: “In your view, what is the maximum tax burden (federal, state, and local combined) a citizen should be required to shoulder?”

Results show that 53.3 percent of respondents indicated a percentage less than 25 percent, the number which was described in the preceding question as the percentage that the “average Oklahoman” pays each year.

According to the poll, 18.5 percent of respondents preferred a tax burden of 10 percent, while 17.7 percent preferred 15 percent. Results reveal that 17.9 percent of likely voters polled chose a response between 25 and 40 percent.

“Unfortunately, the politics of envy have historically been what have determined tax burdens,” Small said. “Policymakers need to ask a fundamental question: What portion of a person’s income – his property – should we take from him to fund government? And before we answer that question it might be wise to take a lesson from God himself, who somehow thought it was reasonable to take only 10 percent.”

Data also revealed that 1.2 percent said it depends on the taxpayers income, 0.4 percent said it should remain what it is now, while 2.4 percent indicated their support for a fair tax or flat tax system. Another 22.2 percent had no opinion.

SoonerPoll.com, Oklahoma’s public opinion pollster, was commissioned for this poll by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. SoonerPoll.com conducted the scientific study using live interviewers by telephone of 509 likely voters from May 2 – 12. The study has a margin of error of ± 4.34 percent.

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According to a recent SoonerPoll, 70.3 percent of likely Oklahoma voters believe that the current welfare system discourages marriage and should be changed. By comparison, 20.6 percent of respondents said the system does not need to be changed and 9 percent had no opinion.

Respondents were asked the following question: “Oftentimes, under Oklahoma’s current welfare system, a young woman can receive more financial benefits by remaining single than by marrying the father of her children. Other times, a woman who is already married, can receive more financial benefits by separating from or divorcing her husband. Some people say it is unwise to discourage marriage in this way, and that this policy should be changed. But, other people say marital status shouldn’t matter, and that the policy doesn’t need to be changed. Which view comes closer to your own?”

Most welfare programs in Oklahoma, and the rest of the United States, unintentionally create disincentives for single parents who would otherwise decide to get married through a policy of “means testing.” “Means testing” is policy designed to make sure that welfare programs only give assistance to families who need it.

This policy cuts off access to welfare programs to those who make more than a certain level of income decided by a federally‐set poverty level. Oftentimes, parents are better off staying unmarried since a spouse’s income will figure against their welfare benefits.

“Unfortunately, the ‘war on poverty’ really has been a war on the family,” said OCPA Fiscal Policy Director Jonathan Small, CPA. “I have family members and friends who have personally experienced the tough choice between marriage and government welfare, and all too often have chosen welfare, likely destroying their family and future generations.”

Small went on to say that since the ‘war on poverty’ began in the 1960s, the percentage of children born out of wedlock has increased from a little more than 6 percent to more than 40 percent.   For blacks, the percentage of births out of wedlock is over 72 percent.

Though encouraging marriage is often seen as a nonpartisan issue, further analysis reveals some variation of results along party lines. Independents are the most enthusiastic about changing the system with 76 percent in favor of change compared to 73.6 percent of Republicans and 66.7 Democrats.

Similarly, only 60.3 percent of liberals are in favor of changing the system compared to 76.5 percent of conservatives.

“No rational person disagrees with the fact that the intact two parent family is both the greatest incubator for success and the greatest, most consistent driver for economic achievement,” said Small.  “According to US Census data, more than 36 percent of single mothers with children were poor, compared to six percent of married couples with children. The overwhelming majority of poor families with children are single parent families, equaling 71 percent of all poor families with children. ”

When results are broken down by sex, men are more likely than women to support changing the welfare system with 74.4 percent of men in favor compared to just 67.4 percent of women. The crosstabs also reveal that 74 percent of evangelicals favor changing the policy, while only 66.8 percent of non-evangelicals would like the policy changed.

SoonerPoll.com, Oklahoma’s public opinion pollster, was commissioned for this poll by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. SoonerPoll.com conducted the scientific study using live interviewers by telephone of 509 likely voters from May 2 – 12. The study has a margin of error of ± 4.34 percent.

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