The Heritage Foundation

Market Research on Tax Reform

June 12, 2015

The American Perceptions Initiative (API)— a project of The Heritage Foundation—conducts market research among adult Americans on a variety of issues and policy priorities to provide support for strategy and messaging. Market research is designed to explore the relevancy, credibility and support for the policies, concepts, messages and language used as well as the impact they have to create movement and action to support these policies and vision for America.

All of API’s market research is conducted in partnership with Vision Critical and Heart+Mind Strategies. Vision Critical is a well-respected research firm based on North America with research specialist that cover subjects including public opinion, health, technology, consumer goods, media and travel. They work with household brands, government bodies, not-for-profit organizations and the media to help them better understand their customers and stakeholders. Heart+Mind Strategies is an experienced and award winning consulting firm specializing in winning the hearts and minds of the people that matter most to their client’s success.

June 12, 2015 | Market Research on Tax Reform

American Attitudes and Support for Tax Reform

Americans Are Hungry for a Plan to Update the Tax System

Put most simply, they are looking for a plan that treats everyone equally, creating opportunity for all and favoritism to none. Registered voters clearly indicate an interest in tax reform (52% support). Additional information and messaging significantly increases the demand for it. Seventy-one percent (71%) of all Americans agreed that “federal tax policies and the tax system in America … needs major changes and reform.” Only 5% believe the system is working just fine.

Current System Seen as Overly Complex, Unfair, and Corrupt

What is abundantly clear from the American Perception Initiative’s recent research is that voters see the current system as overly complex, unfair, and corrupt. Highlighting the top concerns and problems with the current system stirs the demand for change.



  • Too hard to understand
  • More difficult and expensive than it needs to be


  • Too many getting away with not paying fair share
  • Too many loopholes


  • System encourages cronyism and favoritism
  • Government picking winners and losers and playing favorites
  • Gives the BIGS (Washington politicians and special interests) too much influence and too many advantages

Accurate Information Changes Voters’ Views

Based on a gross misunderstanding of who pays how much of the nation’s taxes, most Americans initially believe the wealthy are not paying enough. However, providing voters with accurate information about the amount of federal income taxes paid by the wealthiest 10% of Americans radically changes voters’ demand that they pay more.

Language of Tax Reform

The language of tax reform covers a range of issues, groups, and concepts, each with a differing reaction among the voting public. “Tax reform” itself elicits a tepid and jaded response from the voting public (52% positive). Slightly better is the phrase “modernizing the tax system” (58%). Yet, “updating the tax system” (62%) is clearly the superior way to refer to changing the way the federal government collects revenue.

A conservative approach to tax policy that emphasizes these points while articulating a concern for those in society we all care about effectively stimulates interest and demand for conservative policy solutions.

Key Distinguishing Plan Features

  • Fair: treats people equally
  • Simple: easy to understand and apply
  • Rewards work and savings
  • Eliminates special privileges

Source: Online survey using a national representative sample of 1,019 U.S. voters conducted December 9–16, 2014 with a margin of error of ±3.0%.

About the Author

Mark Schreiber Director, Strategic Marketing
Strategic Marketing

Elizabeth Fender Market Research Associate
Strategic Marketing

Related Issues: Tax Reform