The Washington Post

Poll: Conservatives prefer flat tax over ‘9-9-9’

As far as tax politics go, a new Washington Post -ABC News poll shows a straight ahead “flat tax” a clear winner over “9-9-9,” particularly among the conservative Republicans Texas Gov. Rick Perry hopes will reinvigorate his flagging campaign for the party’s presidential nomination.

A flat tax— implementing a single income tax rate for all Americans —divides the overall public about evenly, but among “very conservative” Republicans and independents, nearly three-quarters hold favorable views of the idea. On Tuesday, Perry rolled out a new economic plan featuring a 20 percent flat tax option.

By contrast, most Americans and about half of the most conservative Republicans and independents— 49 percent—have unfavorable impressions of what has become the featured policy for GOP contender Herman Cain, his “9-9-9” tax plan. Cain has suggested spiking the federal income tax in favor of twin 9 percent taxes rates on personal income and corporate taxes and a new 9 percent national sales tax.

The popularity of the flat tax idea -- and the lukewarm Republican reception of “9-9-9” -- may help Perry reach out anew to the strong conservatives who fueled his quick rise in the nomination contest, but also seemed to desert him in favor of Cain over the month of September.

The new poll -- part of a weekly look at the popularity of candidates or ideas -- asked about impressions of the underlying tax idea, not associating either with a specific candidate. Overall, 47 percent of Americans say they view a flat tax positively; 48 percent negatively. For “9-9-9,” there is a less favorable split: 36 percent positive and 56 percent negative.

(Moreover, the flat tax question in the poll includes the removal of most income tax deductions. Perry’s plan would keep popular deductions for mortgage interest and charitable donations.)

The 9-9-9 tax plan, Cain’s most commonly identifiable policy, draws not only broadly negative reviews, but also strong ones: among all Americans, intensity runs against the idea with strong unfavorable mentions outnumbering strongly favorable ones by nearly 3 to 1. Even among the most conservative Republicans and independents, 26 percent have strongly unfavorable views of “9-9-9;” 22 percent hold very favorable impressions.

While the flat tax appears a likely magnet for Perry in the GOP primary, it is widely viewed unfavorably by Democrats (56 percent unfavorable) and gets a decidedly mixed review from political independents (46 percent favorable; 48 percent unfavorable).

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