White House officials believe tax reform is more popular than many recent polls suggest and have been highlighting broad support for the concept of reforming the tax code in conversations with lawmakers, Kellyanne Conway said on Monday.
“Americans agree with this, the basic premise of it,” Conway, counselor to President Trump, told the Washington Examiner in an interview on Monday. “We see when the polls are responsibly constructed and that they cure information underload by providing specifics and facts ... it tends to drive support up.”
Conway, herself a longtime pollster, said some of the recent polls that have shown low support for the Republican tax plan have surveyed fewer Republicans than Democrats, suggesting the results could skew to the left. For example, she cited a Quinnipiac University poll whose respondents were 33 percent Democratic and only 21 percent Republican — a 12-point difference she said could explain the poll’s finding that most Americans think the plan will primarily benefit the wealthy.
Conway said the partisan characterization of the tax reform plan has also shaped public perception of it.
“This is always being seen as a Trump tax plan, and he’s obviously very involved. He and the vice president leaned all the way in from the get-go. But he executes the laws, he doesn’t make them,” she said. “At the same time, I think some of these pollsters try to just put his name in it to bring it down or say the ‘Republican tax plan’ … We’ve never really looked at it that way. It’s the congressional tax plan and the Democrats are welcome to vote for it too.”
Republicans in the House and Senate began meeting last week to iron out the differences between the versions of the tax reform plan that emerged from each chamber. Trump has expressed hope that GOP lawmakers will place a final product on his desk before Christmas, giving Congress fewer than two weeks to decide on a bill that can survive opposition from a handful of Republicans and all Democrats.
Conway said she has conferred with Republican lawmakers and senior congressional aides about areas of tax reform that voters say they don’t understand when answering questions in tax reform surveys. The number of “Don’t Know” responses to questions about policy in major polls has driven decisions about where to focus tax reform messaging, Conway said, citing the issue of repatriation as an example of an area where polling suggested voters could use more information.
The first slide the White House shows lawmakers and allies when talking tax reform, Conway added, points to the 84 percent of Americans and 77 percent of Democrats who say they favor reforming the tax code. Those figures appear to come from an American Action Network poll circulated in early November.
“I think the other thing that helps us, frankly, is people truly feel like they pay too much in taxes,” Conway said. “That’s different from Obamacare. People felt like they were either on it or they knew someone who was on it, and [thought] ‘Are you taking it away from them? Do they get to keep it?’”
Democrats have argued the tax reform plan reserves most of its benefits for the wealthy because it slashes the corporate tax rate and may eliminate or reduce the estate tax, among other provisions Democrats say help only the rich.
Republicans have argued the plan increases the standard deduction, increases the child tax credit, lowers individual rates, and employs a number of other tools to shrink the amount of taxes middle-class families must pay.