The outcome of the new Republican tax law, Donald Trump’s signature legislative achievement, has created a new and important opportunity for Democrats to draw a contrast on the competing priorities of the two parties and emphasize Trump’s efforts to help the rich at the expense of the middle class. When Donald Trump campaigned for president, he promised voters that he would cut taxes for everyone, especially the middle class, and that he might raise taxes on the wealthy. As Republicans forced through President Trump’s tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest Americans, they made big claims about how the tax cuts would deliver significant financial results for American families and would dramatically change the equation for the midterm election.
Throughout the 2018 election cycle, Priorities USA’s polling showed that the Trump tax cuts offered Democrats a significant opportunity to showcase the dangerous economic policies of Trump and his allies in Congress. These findings were corroborated when Republicans all but abandoned trying to communicate on taxes as they failed to maintain control of Congress in 2018. Now, as Trump campaigns for reelection, his campaign is signaling that his tax cuts for special interests will play an important role in his campaign’s messaging.
On Tax Day 2019, the truth of Trump’s corporate tax giveaway is far from the “middle-class miracle” that Trump and his strategists promised. As reports emerge about middle-class families getting hit with surprise tax bills, new data from Priorities USA indicates that most Americans do not believe the tax law helped them.
Civis Analytics, in a survey commissioned by Priorities, asked 2,812 likely 2020 voters who answered that they had already filed their taxes:
Based off of the tax returns you submitted this year, do you feel the new tax law passed in 2017 helped you or hurt you?
Overall, 28% of likely voters said that the tax law helped them on their 2018 taxes, while 26% said that the tax law hurt them, and 46% said that it made no difference. Even among Trump voters, only 37% reported that the tax bill helped them, while 17% said that it hurt them and 46% reported that it made no difference.
These findings show voters recognize that Trump’s signature legislative accomplishment — cutting taxes for big corporations and the wealthiest Americans — did not benefit them in a significant way. As Trump prepares to run for reelection on a law that 63% of his own voters say failed to help their financial situation, Democrats should continue to communicate to voters about who the law is helping at their expense.
Smaller refunds than expected have left voters feeling like they paid more in taxes. Now, Trump will be forced to try to tell voters not to believe their own feelings about the bill while simultaneously dismissing the multibillion-dollar tax cuts large corporations are reporting. This presents Trump and his campaign with a massive challenge.
Thanks to Trump’s tax cuts, Wall Street and drug companies got their billions:
Axios: 4 pharma companies saved $7 billion from GOP tax law
Business Insider: Trump’s tax cuts added $3.7 billion to JPMorgan’s profits
Bloomberg Businessweek: The Tax Law’s Big Winner Is the Millionaire CEO
- PBS: Did Trump’s tax cuts boost hiring? Most companies say no
Meanwhile, millions of Americans are seeing their refunds shrink or stay the same, leading to economic stress despite Trump’s promises:
CBS News: Surprise tax bill? Withholding changes could be why you owe more
Bloomberg: Shrinking Tax Refunds Cast a Shadow on Trump’s Signature Law
CBS News: Tax refunds so far this year are down by $6 billion from 2018
This stark contrast will be featured prominently in the upcoming elections. With voters putting a premium on their own personal financial situation, the fact that they feel the Trump/GOP tax bill increased their taxes or made no difference despite promises to the contrary, while massive corporations are making record profits and getting billions in new tax cuts, is demonstrative of Trump’s misplaced priorities and a critical example for the economic arguments to come in the 2020 election.
Civis Analytics collected 2,812 interviews of respondents that reported filing their taxes, between March 26 and April 11, 2019 on national web panels. The surveys were weighted to be a representative national cross section of likely 2020 voters.