Twenty-nine percent of the poll's respondents said they would prefer to end the Bush tax cuts for income about $250,000 -- which was Obama's plan -- while a combined 23 percent supported ending the tax cuts at higher income thresholds -- which is one possibility in a potential "fiscal cliff" compromise. A majority of Americans therefore favor ending the Bush tax cuts only for upper incomes. Another 23 percent said the tax cuts should be extended for everyone.
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said Sunday that Democrats had weakened their negotiating position by showing flexibility on the threshold for tax increases, while Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said she "could certainly live with" a compromise at the $400,000 level.
Questioned specifically on several options, Americans supported a tax increase on income over $250,000 by 43 percent to 35 percent. Proposals to let tax rates rise only at higher income levels received somewhat broader support. Half of Americans said it was a good idea to raise taxes for those making more than $400,000, while 52 percent supported raising taxes for those making more than $1 million.
The responses varied considerably depending on the order in which the questions were asked. Those who were asked first about raising taxes on income over $250,000 were 8 percentage points more likely to support the idea than those who were asked first about the $1 million threshold.
Other surveys have generally found greater approval for increasing taxes on those making more than $250,000. Polls taken last month by Pew Research, Fox, Quinnipiac University and Politico/George Washington University all found between 60 percent and 70 percent support for that increase. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll from early December found that 76 percent of Americans thought such an income tax increase would be acceptable.