Of all the very information that came out of the recent CBS News/New York Times poll, one question stuck out, that of taxes.
Here's the poll question: "In general, do you think the Obama Administration has increased taxes for most Americans, decreased taxes for most Americans or have they kept taxes the same for most Americans?"
Of people who support the grassroots, "Tea Party" movement, only 2 percent think taxes have been decreased, 46 percent say taxes are the same, and a whopping 44 percent say they believe taxes have gone up.
Condon offers two possible explanations:
If so many tax cuts were passed, why have so few Americans actually noticed them?
Possibility 1 – the tax cuts were expansive, but small.
While the majority of the tax cuts, passed last February, affected 95 percent of working families, when they took affect by April of 2009, the monetary value was not too large -- most families saw about $70 more in take home pay every month. Individual workers saw about $13 more a week.
Any tax relief is still relief, but many Americans may not have felt that the tax cuts had much impact.
Possibility 2 – the talk of raising taxes in the future clouded the landscape.
In his 2011 budget, the president has already made it clear that his administration wants to end the Bush–era tax cuts for wealthier families, set to expire next year. So it could be that people see that move as a tax hike already.
Both explanations are plausible, but the divergence between Tea Party supporters and other Americans suggest that the influence of these factors varies depending on people's underlying views of Obama -- a finding is consistent with previous evidence showing widespread divergence in partisan perceptions of the deficit, inflation, etc.
Update 2/15 9:42 PM: Along similar lines, see this Boston Globe article on misperceptions about rising crime, which also have a partisan component:
The year 2009 was a grim one for many Americans, but there was one pleasant surprise amid all the drear: Citizens, though ground down and nerve-racked by the recession, still somehow resisted the urge to rob and kill one another, and they resisted in impressive numbers. Across the country, FBI data show that crime last year fell to lows unseen since the 1960s - part of a long trend that has seen crime fall steeply in the United States since the mid-1990s.
At the same time, however, another change has taken place: a steady rise in the percentage of Americans who believe crime is getting worse. The vast majority of Americans - nearly three-quarters of the population - thought crime got worse in the United States in 2009, according to Gallup’s annual crime attitudes poll. That, too, is part of a running trend. As crime rates have dropped for the past decade, the public belief in worsening crime has steadily grown. The more lawful the country gets, the more lawless we imagine it to be...
The increasingly divisive partisanship of the past two decades may also play a role. Political scientists have found again and again that when the other party has the White House, hard-core partisans will invariably think the country is doing worse than it is. According to Gallup data, in 2004, for example, with a Republican in the White House, 67 percent of Democrats believed crime was up, to the Republicans’ 39 percent. Once Barack Obama was elected, however, the percentage of Republicans who believed crime was rising jumped from 63 to 79, while Democrats stubbornly held at 72. “People are extraordinarily partisan in the way they answer questions about the national scene,” says Gallup’s Saad. And the more partisan the country becomes, the stronger this effect is likely to be.