WASHINGTON -- President Bush has persuaded almost half of Americans to support his tax cut but has more work to do to convince a majority that his plan will help the economy, an Associated Press poll found.
While most people think their own taxes are too high, they don't agree on what to do about it.
They are evenly split on whether tax cuts should be across the board, as the president prefers, or directed toward lower- to middle-income taxpayers, according to the poll conducted for the AP by ICR of Media, Pa.
Just under half, 48 percent, said they support Bush's plan, while 32 percent oppose it. Almost one in five said they don't yet know what they think about it, and those are the people whom both sides in the tax debate will be working hard in coming weeks to win over.
Republicans, including the president and members of Congress, plan to attend town meetings and other events to promote Bush's tax cut on Monday, the deadline for filing taxes.
Retiree Mary Litty of Lavalle, Wis., said she supports the president's plan but would prefer that the tax cuts be targeted toward those with less money.
"I could use all the help I can get," the Republican said, adding that the wealthy always seem to benefit from tax cuts. "It seems to me they've had theirs in the past. Now it's our turn."
The poll suggests the president still needs to sell the public on his tax cut proposal in several major areas, including whether it would help the economy.
Bush encouraged people over the weekend to let their legislators know what they think of tax cuts and apply pressure to pass the tax cut he wants of $1.6 trillion over the next 10 years. The Senate reduced the size of the tax cut by one-quarter when it passed its version last week. The House earlier passed the full $1.6 trillion.
"If we're to pass a substantial tax cut, the people must make their voices heard," Bush said in his weekly radio address. Some in the public, however, might not say what he wants to hear.
A third in the poll thought Bush's tax cut plan would help the economy, a third thought it would make no difference and almost one in five thought it would make the economy worse.
"I really don't think it's going to do a heck of a lot for the economy," said Rhett Harrelson, a 34-year-old car salesman and political independent from Andalusia, Ala. "The wealthy might buy some more stock, but I don't think it will provide that shot in the arm the economy needs. I just think people don't have any confidence in the economy."
Fewer than one in 10 expect to save a lot of money on taxes from the Bush tax cut plan, half expect a little money and a third said they don't expect their taxes to go down at all. Six of 10 of those who thought their taxes would go down support the Bush plan, whether they expect a lot of money back or just a little. Those who expect no effect on their taxes oppose it 2-to-1.
The poll of 1,014 people taken April 4 through Sunday had an error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
The appeal of getting any tax money back was enough to win the support of people like Raymond Ashby, a retired accountant from Hanover, Ind., and an independent.
"I like it," Ashby said of the president's tax cut proposal. "I get some money back, no matter how much it is. I earned it, and I can spend it a lot better than they can."
Not surprisingly, support for targeted tax cuts was highest among the poor and dropped steadily among groups with higher incomes.
More likely to favor the president's plan were men, those with higher incomes or more education and, of course, Republicans, who favor the plan by an 8-to-1 margin, while Democrats oppose it by a 2-to-1 margin. Almost half of independents favor the Bush plan, while a third oppose it.
"I think it's a bad idea," said Vanessa Wooten, a 39-year-old Democrat from Hollywood, Fla. "I don't think everyone will see the discounts."
Six in 10 Americans think their taxes are too high. Those between the ages of 35 and 64 -- in their peak earning years -- and those who made more than $50,000 a year were most likely to have that complaint.
That sentiment, which could leave room for tax cut advocates to build support, was expressed by Ashby.
"The small fellow keeps giving," Ashby said, "and the people in control keep taking."
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