Skip to content

How Do Americans Feel About Taxes Today? Tax Foundation’s 2009 Survey of U.S. Attitudes on Taxes, Government Spending and Wealth Distribution

2 min readBy: Matt Moon

Key Findings

  • A new 2009 poll of taxA tax is a mandatory payment or charge collected by local, state, and national governments from individuals or businesses to cover the costs of general government services, goods, and activities. attitudes finds a majority of U.S. adults still believe that the federal income taxes they pay are “too high” (56 percent).
  • 4 in every 5 adults say the federal tax code is complex (85 percent) and say that the tax system needs to be completely overhauled or needs major changes (82 percent).
  • The estate taxAn estate tax is imposed on the net value of an individual’s taxable estate, after any exclusions or credits, at the time of death. The tax is paid by the estate itself before assets are distributed to heirs. is seen as the most “unfair” federal tax, while the gas taxA gas tax is commonly used to describe the variety of taxes levied on gasoline at both the federal and state levels, to provide funds for highway repair and maintenance, as well as for other government infrastructure projects. These taxes are levied in a few ways, including per-gallon excise taxes, excise taxes imposed on wholesalers, and general sales taxes that apply to the purchase of gasoline. is seen as the most “unfair” state and local tax. Two-thirds (67 percent) favor a complete elimination of the federal estate tax.
  • While nearly one-third of all tax filers currently have no federal income tax liability after taking credits and deductions, two-thirds (66 percent) believe that everyone should be required to pay some minimum. Under half (44 percent) would be willing to give up some federal tax deductions in exchange for an across-the-board cut in federal income tax rates.
  • There is widespread opposition to taxes on food and drink deemed unhealthy, with over half (56 percent) opposing taxes on “junk food” in general. On the other hand, over half (53 percent) support government-run gambling operations such as lotteries and keno terminals.


Despite the recent political and economic shakeups, the Tax Foundation’s 2009 Survey of U.S. Attitudes on Taxes, Government Spending and Wealth Distribution shows that American opinions on tax issues have not changed markedly since 2007, the last time the survey was done. Issues of tax complexity, fairness and burdens continue to be important to the American people.

This report summarizes the findings of a survey done by Harris Interactive® on behalf of the Tax Foundation from February 18-27, 2009. The survey covers a nationwide cross-section of 2,002 adults aged 18 or older.

This year’s survey includes three new questions on wealth redistribution, taxes on food and drink deemed unhealthy, and government-run gambling operations such as lotteries and Keno terminals. The survey also includes two new demographic categories, where the survey asks respondents to identify their party affiliation and their political philosophy.

Download the full report above.

Stay informed on the tax policies impacting you.

Subscribe to get insights from our trusted experts delivered straight to your inbox.