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Sixty-five percent of all respondents support such a reform package. The figure is only slightly different among homeowners: 64% of respondents who own a home say the same.
The question specifically asked:
If tax rates were lowered to three brackets – 8%, 14%, and 23% - would you support eliminating the mortgage interest deduction as part of a larger tax reform effort that got rid of most deductions?
The brackets were taken from the economic growth plan that Jon Huntsman introduced and which was praised by the Wall Street Journal editors. The rates are roughly consistent with, but lower than, the President’s fiscal commission’s recommendations.
This is an important finding for a few reasons:
First, Obama talks a lot about getting rid of the loopholes on the rich, while mainstream voters, most of whom are not rich, are willing to lead by example. Perhaps the best approach is to call on all Americans to embrace reform rather than demonize wealthier Americans, which foments resentment and does little to aid growth.
Second, all voters – including conservatives – have been reluctant to embrace specific entitlement reforms that put them at an apparent disadvantage, such as raising the retirement age or changing the inflation formula for benefits. But on the mortgage interest deduction, which is the single biggest benefit in the tax code enjoyed by middle class homeowners, they are resoundingly supportive of reform that takes an advantage away from them so they can capitalize on a greater advantage: keeping more of their income. There are lessons in this for how to communicate the reality of entitlement reform. Voters don’t yet see that the trade-off is a better long-term gain for them on that front.
Third, note that the question didn’t propose capping the deduction, but eliminating it. Most realistic reform proposals would likely end up capping the deduction. A full elimination is a much bigger hit on families, and yet they still support it.
The poll was conducted between September 13-15, 2011 among 648 self-identified Republican voters, assembled for ConservativeHome by YouGov.