Republicans claim to be confident their tax bill will lead to victory at the ballot box this fall during the midterm congressional elections. “[House minority leader Nancy] Pelosi did all she could to thwart tax reform because she believed its failure would actually help her regain power, not the other way around,” a spokesperson for the National Republican Congressional Committee recently told Vice News.
Should Trump-state Senate Democrats who voted against the tax bill, like Claire McCaskill (Missouri), Joe Manchin (West Virginia), Joe Donnelly (Indiana), and Jon Tester (Montana), really fear electoral backlash?
Absolutely not, according to our analysis. In fact, they should highlight their opposition to Trump’s tax bill even in these red states.
Most polling about the bill has been national, and it suggests broad unpopularity. Our analysis of exclusive national data to model state support for the tax bill suggests that Democrats have little to fear from the GOP law and should embrace progressive policies to mobilize opposition.
To test support for Republican tax ideas, we use a statistical technique called Multilevel Regression and Poststratification (MRP). With this method we can estimate support for GOP ideas at the state level using national survey data. MRP uses both geographic data (i.e., income, education, and religiosity of a state) as well as individual-level data (race, gender, and education of an individual) to estimate support. Academic research has shown that these estimates are incredibly accurate, and they have been used to study policy adoption. We applied this technique to a survey of registered voters about tax policy completed by the Global Strategy Group for Not One Penny in early 2017.
To begin, we explored support for populist economic policies, such as the “Buffett Rule” and higher taxes on the top 1 percent. The Buffett Rule would require all millionaires to pay at least 30 percent of their income in taxes. This turned out to be universally popular: Strong support is upward of 40 percent even in the least supportive states, and most states hover near 50 percent strong approval.
If we combine voters who either “strong[ly]” or “somewhat” approve, support for the Buffet Rule is upward of 80 percent in most states. Even in tax-averse Texas, a Democrat like Representative Beto O’Rourke, who is challenging Senator Ted Cruz, could safely campaign on higher taxes on millionaires, because an estimated 75 percent of registered voters in Texas favor that position.