Confidence, Perception, and Politics: Determinants of Attitudes Toward Taxes by Level of Government

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California faced a tremendous fiscal challenge in the wake of the 2008 recession. With high political hurdles to raising taxes, the state and local governments were forced to appeal directly to voters through ballot initiatives. Debates over these ballot initiatives, however, took place against the backdrop of increasingly acrimonious disagreements about taxation at the federal level. Unfortunately,researchers have little idea about how the dynamics of public opinion on tax issues operate across these various levels of government. This article asks: do the factors that shape attitudes towards taxation in California vary depending on the level of government levying those taxes? Analyzing results from a 2012 poll,this article finds some differences and some commonalities in the determinants of tax attitudes at the federal, state and local level. More specifically, we find that:(1) attitudes toward taxes are more politicized at the federal level than at the state or local level; (2) confidence in government has a strong effect on tax attitudes but citizens draw clear distinctions between levels of government; (3) perceived self-interest does not influence tax attitudes at any level; and (4) there is a gender gap in attitudes toward taxation at the federal, state and local levels.

Recommended Citation

Wallsten, Kevin J; & Park, Gene. (2015). Confidence, Perception, and Politics in California: The Determinants of Attitudes toward Taxes by Level of Government. California Journal of Politics and Policy, 7(2). doi: 10.5070/P2cjpp7225907. cjpp_25907. Retrieved from: http://escholarship.org/uc/item/8686p7c0