By Andrew Scoggin
But as touchy as people can be about their money, it seems the target for their displeasure actually makes sense, according to a new ABC News-Washington Post poll.
Respondents to the poll released Wednesday disapproved of the federal income tax system, with 39 percent having a favorable impression and 56 percent unfavorable. But for the Internal Revenue Service, the government agency that collects taxes, more people approved than disapproved, with a favorability rating of 49 percent to 48 percent unfavorable.
This does seem a bit odd in terms of the typical irrationality of humankind. It’s like getting a parking ticket — people still get angry at the officer, even though they’re just enforcing the policy created by someone else.
Americans do have a much lower opinion of Congress, as a separate ABC-WaPo poll showed a 30 percent approval rating for legislators. For a population that dislikes the tax system, it’s logical to dislike the people who set policy rather than those who carry it out. So kudos, I guess.
That IRS approval rating also hasn’t changed much over time. Most polls showed a favorable outlook overall, except for a 60 percent unfavorable rating in 1997. The poll that year was conducted after the enactment of a bill that decreased certain federal taxes, which is pretty weird.
The results break down predictably along party lines. Democrats returned a 53 percent favorability rating for the tax system and 56 percent for the IRS. Republicans only approved of the system at 30 percent and the IRS at 42 percent.
Independents also swung to the negative end — 33 percent and 46 percent approved of the tax system and IRS, respectively.
The tallies for younger adults, however, came back with interesting results. Among people ages 18 to 39, 49 percent approved of the IRS, the same level as the general population. But 46 percent of that age group gave favorable marks for the tax system, far above older generations.
Younger adults tend to skew Democratic, and they likely don’t make as much money as older adults. Still, that younger age group approved of the tax system slightly more than people making under $50,000 a year (44 percent).
Check out the poll to dive deeper in the data, but you really should get cracking on that tax return first. It’s due Monday.