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How Republicans Bungled Tax Cut Messaging

Leading up to the passage of the Trump Tax Cut, polls found Americans overwhelmingly opposed to them. In mid-November, a Quinnipiac University survey showed just 25 percent of respondents approved of the plan. But by mid-January, afthe Harvard-Harris Poll (HHP) showed a significant uptick: 47% of voters polled support the overhaul. And once they have been presented with specifics, approval of the cuts rises to 57%.

Trump signs tax cutWhat changed? That’s easy: Republicans are no longer in charge of the messaging. While GOP leaders debated parts of the plan, Democrats were able to hammer them by labeling the tax cuts as breaks for the rich. Because specifics were not finalized until days before the vote, Republicans never built a message that resonated with voters.

But since the bill was signed into law, voters have used online tax calculators to determine if they’ll get a cut and they see corporations (who are expecting massive savings) giving bonuses, raising wages, and investing in training for their employees.

HHP’s survey still shows an electorate that doesn’t fully understand the new tax code. But when given more information, people across all demographics warm to the cuts. It just goes to show how the Republicans bungled selling the cuts to Americans.

Initial Favorability: Women Really Don’t Like It

Do you favor or oppose the tax bill
Question: Do you favor or oppose the tax bill? (Click to expand)

The baseline support is 47% with just 18% from self-described democrats, 19% from African-Americans, and 40% favorability from women. This is consistent with other leading polls. But HHP goes further: they ask voters if they have enough info on the new law.

Disliked Because It Wasn’t Understood?

How much information do you feel you have about the new tax bill
Question: How much information do you feel you have about the new tax bill? (Click to expand)

61% believe they have too little information on the tax cut. Republican efforts to market the law failed at the most basic level: people don’t understand. African-Americans and senior citizens are the most confused: over 70% of each don’t have enough info.

HHP then lists specific cuts in the new law – responses show that the middle class cuts are overwhelming popular.

Americans Love The Middle Class Tax Cuts

Here are parts of the final tax bill. Do you favor or oppose
Question: Here are parts of the final tax bill. Do you favor or oppose? (Click to expand)

These tax reductions are so popular that even democrats and liberals approve of all of them. African-American support for many of the components are favored by 70% or more. With this kind of support, Republicans could have easily made their case in a way that resonated with the public.

In the run up to the midterms in November, the GOP should highlight the popularity of the cuts as well as the fact that no Democrats voted for them. As Americans start seeing more money in their paychecks, Republicans must hammer the Dems as they continue to call the cuts “crumbs.”

Powered by Info, Support Rises Across Every Demographic

Given this information about what is in the tax code, do you favor or oppose
Question: Given this information about what is in the tax code, do you favor or oppose? (Click to expand)

With more info in hand, voters in favor of the cuts rose by 10 points – up to 57%. Females found the cuts much more likable with a 16-point bump and African-Americans doubled their support, from 19% to 38%. Even Democrats acknowledge the benefits of the tax bill: 34% now support it.


  1. Republicans did a terrible job explaining the tax cuts. They allowed Democrats to frame the debate as merely a tax cut for the wealthy.
  2. American voters had too little information on a much-discussed bill – which means the media and the bumbling GOP did not do their respective jobs.
  3. Since the tax cuts were signed into law, dozens of corporations have announced they are awarding bonuses, raising wages, giving shares to employees, and improving training and other benefits. This free publicity has helped the perception of the cuts.
  4. With the proper information, this is a landslide win for the Republicans. But will they figure out how to sell it for November?
  5. Democrats that continue to mock the cuts – calling them crumbs and “one of the worst bills in the history of the United States” – are on the wrong side of history. They continue to play this as a rich vs. poor issue, while ignoring the millions of people seeing their wages rise.

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