Poll: 61% Support Abolishing Death Tax

Published May 1, 2004

A large majority of Americans believe the estate tax, also known as the “death tax,” should be permanently repealed, according to a new survey released March 22 by the American International Automobile Dealers Association (AIADA).

The survey, conducted by McLaughlin & Associates in late February among 1,000 likely voters, found nearly two-thirds (61 percent) feel the estate tax should be abolished because it is inherently unfair.

“Voters across party, ideological, and demographic lines consider it to be unfair that the government taxes the earnings of individuals, and again taxes the estate at the time of the earner’s death,” notes pollster John McLaughlin, who shared the findings of the poll at an AIADA-sponsored congressional briefing on Capitol Hill. “Nowhere among the major voter groups do we see less than 70 percent of the voters saying it is unfair.”

The poll found voters support permanent repeal by a 3:1 margin. According to the poll, 61.6 percent of respondents support permanent repeal; 18.7 percent oppose permanent repeal.

When asked whether it is fair or unfair to tax earnings when they are earned and again after the earner dies, 84 percent of survey respondents said they considered that to be unfair. Ninety-two percent of self-described “conservative” voters believe the death tax is unfair, as do 73 percent of self-described “liberals.”

“Like many Americans, I believe the Death Tax is fundamentally unfair. It’s a tax on assets I have created and paid taxes on,” explained AIADA member Jeff Davis, an Ohio auto dealer who served as a panelist at the briefing AIADA called to unveil the survey results.

“I can tell you without reservation that if my businesses were forced to pay a 55 percent tax on our total net worth, we could not survive,” Davis continued. “In all likelihood, my 11- and 12-year old children would lose the family business.”

The poll also found:

  • Most Republicans, Democrats, and Independents favor permanent repeal. According to the survey, 73.2 percent of Republicans support permanent repeal, as do 50.3 percent of Democrats and 61.3 percent of Independents.
  • Support for permanent repeal transcends ideological lines. Self-described conservative Republicans (77.7 percent) and moderate Republicans (69.6 percent) support permanent repeal. Among liberal Republicans, support for permanent repeal is at 59.5 percent. Even self-described conservative and moderate Democrats support permanent repeal, 60.9 percent and 51.4 percent, respectively. Only among self-described liberal Democrats is support for permanent repeal below 50 percent (44.5 percent).
  • Income is irrelevant to voters’ feeling that the death tax is unfair. Among voters earning less than $40,000 per year, 84 percent feel the death tax is unfair; 12 percent feel it is fair. Among voters earning more than $100,000, 82 percent view it as unfair, while 11 percent view it as fair.
  • Most minorities support permanent repeal. According to the survey, 56.4 percent of African-Americans and 51.4 percent of Hispanics support permanent repeal of the tax. Among Caucasian voters, 63.5 percent favor permanent repeal.
  • The majority of both men and women favor permanent repeal. Among men, 62.9 percent favor permanent repeal of the tax; among women, 60.0 support permanent repeal.
  • Most Americans, regardless of age, support permanent repeal. Sixty-seven percent of likely voters age 41-65 support permanent repeal; among likely voters age 56-65, support for permanent repeal is at 63.6 percent. Likely voters over the age of 65 support permanent repeal at a rate of 61.9 percent. Among 26-40 year-olds, support for permanent repeal is at 53.2 percent. Only among likely voters age 18-25 is support below 50 percent (48.2 percent).

“The findings of this poll deal a serious blow to opponents of death tax repeal who argue the tax is fair. Voters recognize double taxation when they see it, and they don’t like it–regardless of whether they are personally affected by it,” commented AIADA Chairman Buzz Rodland.

“As someone who owns and operates a small business, I feel confident in saying that our economy would see a significant increase in new job creation if small business owners were not saddled with the burdens of the Death Tax,” added Davis. “In my case, there’s no question that I waste countless hours and resources on estate planning.

“Last year,” he continued, “I spent over $35,000 on estate planning. This does not include the thousands spent on insurance for my wife and me. It does not include a $40,000 business appraisal expense–something I wouldn’t have had to do were there not a looming Death Tax.”

“In today’s competitive environment, automobile dealers need predictability in the tax code in order to buy new equipment, expand business opportunities, and create more jobs,” points out AIADA board member Jenell Ross, a Dayton, Ohio auto dealer who seven years ago nearly lost her business after the untimely death of her father. “My family’s experience with the death tax has been eye-opening, and it has motivated us to do what we can to help bring an end to this unfair tax.”

The survey of 1,000 randomly selected likely voters was conducted on February 23-24, 2004. All interviews were conducted via telephone by professional interviewers. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percent.

Ed Patru is communications director for the American International Automobile Dealers Association. His email address is [email protected].

For more information …

about the American International Automobile Dealers Association, visit its Web site at http://www.aiada.org.