Weird Statistics

Every year, the Gallup Poll asks people how they feel about paying federal income taxes. This year, 48 percent of respondents said they pay too much, while 45 percent said the amount of federal income tax they pay is about right. Ha! I thought. No surprise there! This year around 47 percent of households won’t pay any income tax at all. So, I figured, that accounts for the 45 percent who think their tax bill is “about right.”
Oddly, though, the responses don’t break down that way at all. Rather, whether a person thinks his taxes are too high has virtually no correlation with his income, and therefore virtually no correlation with whether he is paying any income taxes at all. On the average, upper-income taxpayers pay around twice their fair share in federal income taxes. Thus, just about every member of that group would be justified in saying his tax bill is too high. In fact, however, only 48 percent say their income taxes are too high, while 49 percent say they are about right. On the other hand, people earning less than $20,000 generally aren’t paying any federal income taxes at all. On the contrary, many of them are getting checks from the federal government representing fictitious “tax credits.” Astonishingly, however, this group is more convinced than upper-income Americans that they are paying too much: 44 percent say their income taxes are too high, while only 39 percent say their tax levy–zero!–is about right.
I deduce from this that people’s feelings about taxes relate almost entirely to ideology, and hardly at all to economic reality. Still, doesn’t it take a certain amount of nerve to claim that your federal income taxes are too high when you don’t pay any?