Why's the GOP Tax Bill Still So Unpopular? Collins Says There’s a 'Messaging Problem'

| APR 17, 2018 | 6:14 PM
House And Senate Leaders Gather For Tax Bill Enrollment Ceremony

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

As Republicans continue to shed members heading into the 2018 midterm elections, the party is clinging to its landmark tax reform bill to help fend off a potential blue wave — but there's one problem: Americans still aren't on board.

According to a Gallup poll released on Monday, just 39 percent of Americans approve of the Republican tax overhaul, a number that has remained stagnant since the last time the survey was taken back in February.

Disapproval of the bill, however, increased four percentage points, with now over 50 percent saying they don't support the tax law lauded by President Donald Trump and GOP leadership, according to Gallup.

Monday also saw another bad poll for Republicans when a new NBC/WSJ survey showed that only 27 percent of people viewed the law as a good idea and 36 percent saying was a bad idea.

While some Republicans maintain that the public will eventually come around on the tax bill once more Americans start seeing more money in their paychecks, others are concerned that the party has a messaging problem regarding its crown jewel legislative victory ahead of the midterms.

“I do not think the administration or Congress has done a good job talking about the benefits of the tax bill,” Susan Collins (R-Maine) told IJR, adding that she really thinks the party has a “messaging problem” regarding tax reform.

And the Maine senator might be right.

Looking at Gallup, while support for the tax bill remains low (39 percent), Americans today — months after aspects of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act have kicked in — are actually now less likely to say their income taxes are too high than at any time since 2012.

So, what's the hang-up?

Well, according to a senior GOP source, the problem again goes back to messaging.

“There's still a ton of uncertainty around the law, which could explain why the numbers are lower,” the senior GOP source told IJR. “Just stresses how important it is for our members to be selling it whenever possible.”

Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA), however, offered a more pessimistic reaction to the tax bill's lack of fervent support, telling IJR on Monday that he doesn't blame Americans for doubting that Congress “would do anything to benefit [them].”

“The American people are very cynical about the federal government and, frankly, I don’t blame them,” Kennedy said. “As bad as it looks on the outside they ought to see from the inside. It would break your heart.”

But the Louisiana senator did add that he's confident the tax bill will ultimately transcend the public's historic lack of confidence in Washington.

“That attitude will change dramatically,” Kennedy said, “and I think it will continue because many Americans haven’t yet, and they won’t until this time next year, see the personal impact of this tax bill.”

And while recent polling from Gallup and NBC/WSJ paint a potentially dire picture for Republicans hoping that the major tax bill will help their efforts to retain control in Congress, it's not all bad news.

A February poll from The New York Times and Survey Monkey had the tax bill at 51 percent approval, optimism from small business owners in the economy hit a record high following the tax bill, and some businesses have issued pay increases and handed out bonuses to workers.

So, while the bill itself remains unpopular according to other polls, Americans are beginning to feel more positive about their taxes — which could mean that with the right messaging, Republicans have a chance to strongly position themselves with over 200 days till Election Day 2018.

Democrats, however, smell blood in the water.

One senior Senate Democratic aide told IJR that the persistent underwater polling for the Republican tax law “reflects the fact that the American people know it was written at the behest of special interests to benefit corporate executives and wealthy shareholders, not middle-class families or workers.”

And on Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer ripped the tax bill for being “a massive corporate tax cut” that has left workers waiting to see the benefits.

“Don't forget that those bonuses companies were supposed to lavish on workers after the #GOPTaxScam passed have now ”slowed to a trickle," he added.

AshLee Strong, spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, told IJR that she's not surprised that Democrats are fighting to take away tax cuts. “As tax reform continues to deliver pay increases, bonuses, tax cuts, and utility rate cuts for Americans, Democrats want to take it all away,” Strong said.

“That’s not only bad policy, it’s a bad message.”