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Why Do (Some) Ordinary Americans Support Tax Cuts for the Rich? Evidence From a Randomized Survey Experiment

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Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Political Economy
Early online date30 Nov 2022
Accepted/In press17 Nov 2022
E-pub ahead of print30 Nov 2022


King's Authors


Why do (some) ordinary citizens support tax cuts for the rich? We test four prominent explanations — unenlightened self-interest, fairness considerations, prospect of upward mobility, and trickle-down beliefs — using a randomized, online information provision experiment, embedded in a representative survey of around 3,000 US Americans. The results show that preferences for taxing the rich are fundamentally affected by information that shifts citizens’ core fairness beliefs, as well as information on the past trajectory of top tax rates. In contrast, we find no evidence in support of the unenlightened self-interest or prospect of upward mobility explanations. Overall, our results align with theories of tax policy preferences that emphasize the importance of fairness perceptions and reference points.

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