This will be a tough election, but fortunately, the unfolding tax issue can work strongly to help Democrats and define the choice in the election. This is a case where Democrats are strongly aligned with public thinking and priorities. Only 38 percent favor extending the Bush tax cuts for those over $250,000 — the official position of Republican leaders and candidates. Clearly messaging around this choice - with Democrats voting for middle class tax cuts, while starting to address the deficit and protecting Social Security, contrasted with Republican candidates who still believe trickle-down economics and worsening the deficit — works for progressives.

Democracy Corps Tax Cuts - Analysis

Democracy Corps Tax Cuts - Results

Democracy Corps Tax Cuts - Graphs

Key Findings

With Democrats down by 7 points in the congressional test ballot, they have reason to welcome this potential shift in the dynamic. Democrats hold the high ground on these issues — and this one noticeably moves the congressional vote to the Democrats after a debate. Democrats should embrace a tax debate. Frankly, they do not have many issues where:

  • There is a 17-point margin in favor of the Democratic position, 55 to 38 percent.
  • The strong messages give a disproportionate lift to the Democratic candidates — scored 13 points better than named Democratic candidates while Republican messages performed half as well.
  • There is an opportunity to show seriousness on the deficit, while undermining Republicans on the issue.
  • The choice re-enforces Democrats’ core values and strongest framework for the election (for the middle class versus Wall Street).

The payoff from this debate comes in a 2-point narrowing of the Republican lead in the congressional vote after hearing the debate. And for the most powerful Democratic messages, it narrows the vote by 5 points, to 45 to 47 percent.

This latest poll of likely voters by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner for Democracy Corps finds majority support for a variety of tax cut measures to protect the middle class. Some of the key findings include:

  • Over half — 55 percent — support increasing taxes by letting some or all of the Bush-era tax cuts expire. Specifically, 42 percent say the cuts should remain in place for the middle class, but expire for those making more than $250,000. Just 38 percent say all the tax cuts should remain in place. This is not a purely base issue — by a 17-point margin, independents favor raising taxes on the wealthy.
  • This message is even more popular when it is contextualized by broader economic messages. By a 10-point margin, voters are persuaded and reassured by the idea of raising taxes on the wealthiest so that revenue can be used for deficit reduction and investment in jobs.
  • Majorities clearly side with extending the cuts for the middle class, at least for some time. Voters favor extending the tax cuts for the middle class for two years, as some have proposed, while a similar majority favors extending these cuts permanently. The proposals receive intense popular support from Democrats, with all proposals advocating expiration of tax cuts getting more than six-in-ten support.


This memo is based on a poll conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner for Democracy Corps. The poll was conducted August 30-September 2, 2010 among 2008 voters nationwide. All data shown reflects results from 845 likely 2010 voters (895 unweighted; margin of error of 3.2 percentage points) unless otherwise noted.

Source: Stanley B. Greenberg, Peyton M. Craighill, and Bryan Bennett
Client: Democracy Corps