Buffett rule: Five questions about Obama's plan answered

President Obama wants a proposed "Buffett rule" to make sure that millionaires pay at least a 30 percent federal tax rate. Here are five facts that shed light on the Buffett rule and the debate surrounding it.

5. Are Americans with Obama?

Steven Senne/AP/File
Billionaire Bill Gates has been a supporter of the Buffet rule.

"Most Americans agree with me," Obama said in Wednesday remarks on the Buffett rule. "So do nearly half of all Republicans across America."

He also said one survey has found that two-thirds of millionaires support the Buffett rule concept.

It's true that Obama is seizing on an issue where he can tap into some broad-based public support. For example, a CBS News/New York Times poll in January poll found a majority of Americans would support taxing capital gains and dividends at the same rate as wage income in the interest of fairness and reducing deficits.

But different polls have suggested that Americans' views about tax hikes could be more nuanced. 

Yes, polls have shown support for higher taxes on the rich. But many Americans worry that rising tax rates could harm the economy, and a recent poll of 1,000 likely voters in 12 potentially pivotal swing states found people split over how to define tax "fairness."

Some 35 percent said the "most fair" system would ask wealthy Americans to pay a higher rate than others. But 33 percent chose a system where everyone pays the same rate as "most fair," while 27 percent opted for the view that "every American should pay at least something in taxes, even if they are lower income."

The same poll, conducted by the center-left group Third Way, asked about the best way to address income inequality. A Buffett rule view, "to ensure the rich are paying their fair share in taxes," came in way behind "to expand economic opportunities for the middle class." And in a second pairing, the Buffett rule mantra fell well behind "to lower taxes on those who can create jobs and expand economic opportunities."

When it comes to deficit reduction, a Gallup poll last year found Americans much more inclined to address the challenge through spending cuts, or a mix of spending cuts and tax hikes, than by an approach that relies mainly on tax hikes. Obama has called for a blended approach to deficit reduction.

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