It’s perhaps not surprising that Americans would support higher taxes on top earners given that tax rates on high income brackets were once much higher than they are today. The top marginal tax rate was as high as 94 percent in the 1940s, and throughout the 1970s, Americans in the top income bracket (which in 1970 was $200,000 and above, or about $1.3 million in today’s money) were taxed at a 70 percent rate, according to the Tax Policy Center. It wasn’t until 1981, when Congress and President Ronald Reagan implemented one of the largest tax cuts since World War II, that the top marginal tax rate fell to 50 percent. Over the course of Reagan’s term, tax reforms eventually cut the top marginal tax rate down to 28 percent.
Wanting the wealthy to pay more in taxes isn’t a new idea to American politics either. According to a Gallup poll from 2016, since 1992, Americans have largely felt that upper-income earners don’t pay enough in taxes. For the last quarter century, a majority of Americans — between 55 percent and 77 percent — have believed that top earners pay too little. And a 2017 Ipsos/Reuters poll found that 3 in 4 Americans said that wealthier Americans should pay more in taxes.