As debate continues on the tentative tax agreement reached by President Obama and congressional Republicans, some opponents of the plan argue that no matter the other aspects of the deal, it is not fair to extend all tax cuts for the wealthy given the current economic downturn. The inequality of the Bush-era tax cuts is hardly news to the public. In fact, in a February 2001 poll, taken just after George W. Bush was sworn into office, 65% of Americans said that if Bush’s planned tax cuts became law they would benefit some people more than others. Just a quarter of the public (26%) believed that the tax cuts would be fair to all. Among those who said the tax cuts would not be fair, there was an overwhelming consensus that the benefits would fall to the wealthy at the expense of the middle class and poor. Still, at the time, the Bush tax plan was supported by a 43%-to-34% margin. And, despite objections from both sides of the political spectrum, Americans currently approve of the pending tax deal — including a temporary extension of the less-than-fair tax cuts — by a 60%-to-22% margin, with support coming from Democrats (63% approve), Republicans (62%) and independents (60%). Read More

Russell Heimlich  is a former web developer at Pew Research Center.