By Chris Kahn
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump says paying no income tax would make him “smart.” While nearly half of Americans agree with him, more people think it is “selfish,” and “unpatriotic,” according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Tuesday.
Some 67 percent of Americans said it is “selfish” for a presidential candidate to pay no taxes, while 61 percent said it is “unpatriotic,” according to the poll, which allowed respondents to pick more than one adjective to describe paying no taxes.
At the same time, the results showed some respect for a candidate who can figure out how to reduce their tax bill. Some 46 percent of Americans, including 35 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of Republicans, thought a presidential candidate who pays no taxes is “smart.”
Trump’s taxes have become a big campaign issue after the New York Times released a portion of his 1995 tax returns last week and estimated that Trump likely paid no taxes for a number of years. The celebrity real estate developer, who is the first presidential candidate in decades to refuse to release his full tax returns, didn’t deny the report. He later said that he had “brilliantly used” U.S. tax rules to his advantage.
During the first presidential debate with his rival Democrat Hillary Clinton last month, Trump responded to Clinton’s allegation that he paid no federal taxes by saying that would make him “smart.”
“What is he trying to say: that those of us who pay taxes aren’t intelligent?” said poll respondent Yonna McNerney, 41, of Denver. “I started working at the age of 16, and I’ve always paid taxes,” she said. “Not paying taxes, I don’t think that’s acceptable.”
McNerney, a mother of three who works at a telecommunications company, remains uncommitted in the race and said Trump’s comments about taxes haven’t changed her mind one way or the other.
April St. Aoro, 46, who works for a manufacturing firm near St. Cloud, Minnesota, was more understanding of Trump’s point of view, though she also remains undecided in the race.
“I think all of us are trying to pay as little taxes as possible,” St. Aoro said.
Respondents were slightly less critical when asked to describe a private citizen paying no taxes.
Some 64 percent agreed it was “selfish,” while just over half agreed it was “unpatriotic.” Some 50 percent, including 37 percent of Democrats and 67 percent of Republicans, agreed that it was “smart.”
The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online in English in all 50 states. Respondents were asked what they thought of “a private citizen who has found a way to pay no income taxes,” and given the choice to agree or disagree to the words “smart,” “selfish,” and “unpatriotic.”
They were then asked the same set of questions about a presidential candidate.
The Sept. 28-Oct. 3 poll was part of a larger national tracking poll that tracks public opinion every day. It included 1,948 American adults, including 893 Democrats and 635 Republicans. It has a credibility interval, a measure of accuracy, of 3 percentage points for the entire sample, 4 percentage points for Democrats only and 5 percentage points for Republicans.
(Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Ross Colvin)