Two-thirds of likely 2024 voters in Washington State support levying a tax on extreme wealth in Washington, with well over fifty percent strongly supportive, the Northwest Progressive Institute’s latest statewide poll has confirmed.
67% of 874 likely voters surveyed by Public Policy Polling last week for NPI said they supported levying a one percent wealth tax on Washington residents whose worldwide wealth exceeds a quarter billion dollars, to benefit the state’s essential public services, while only 28% were opposed and 5% were not sure.
The finding corroborates earlier polling conducted in Washington by TargetSmart for the State Innovation Exchange in December 2022 — January 2023.
TargetSmart’s multimodal survey of 497 adults found that two-thirds of Washington voters support implementing a wealth tax where the first $250 million is exempt before any presentation of arguments for the idea.
It’s also consistent with NPI’s past wealth tax research.
During the previous election cycle, we repeatedly asked if voters support levying a tax on billionaire fortunes and found enthusiastic support, despite not specifying in our question which particular services the revenue would be dedicated to.
Our 2021–2022 data showed that voters understand our tax code is inequitable and are very receptive to ideas to balance it primarily on fairness grounds.
For 2023, we updated our question to fit the contours of the legislation that’s currently before the Legislature: House Bill 1473, prime sponsored by Representative My-Linh Thai, and Senate Bill 5486, prime sponsored by Senator Noel Frame, both good friends of the Northwest Progressive Institute.
These bills would tax fortunes of $250 million or more and allocate the revenue equally to the Disabilities Care Trust Account, the Education Legacy Trust Account, the Washington Housing Trust Fund, and the Taxpayer Justice Account.
Accordingly, we asked:
QUESTION: Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose levying a one percent wealth tax on Washington residents whose worldwide wealth exceeds a quarter billion dollars, to benefit public services here in our state, such as disability services, housing, and special education?
- Support: 67%
- Strongly: 57%
- Somewhat: 10%
- Oppose: 28%
- Somewhat: 6%
- Strongly: 22%
- Not sure: 5%
Our survey of 874 likely 2024 Washington State voters was in the field from Tuesday, March 7th through Wednesday, March 8th, 2023.
The poll utilizes a blended methodology, with automated phone calls to landlines (50%) and online answers from cell phone only respondents (50%).
It was conducted by Public Policy Polling for the Northwest Progressive Institute, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.3% at the 95% confidence interval.
For reference, our previous question, first asked in 2021, was as follows:
QUESTION: Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose levying a one percent wealth tax on Washington residents whose worldwide wealth exceeds one billion dollars, to benefit public services here in our state?
ANSWERS (MAY OF 2021):
- Support: 60%
- Strongly support: 50%
- Somewhat support: 10%
- Oppose: 36%
- Somewhat oppose: 11%
- Strongly oppose: 25%
- Not sure: 5%
Compared to that finding, overall support in response to the 2023 version of our wealth tax question is 7% higher, with all of that growth coming in the “strongly support” bucket. Opposition, meanwhile, is down 8%, for a total increase in net support of 13%. And that’s despite the definition of extreme wealth in the question having widened from a billion dollars to a quarter billion dollars.
Throughout NPI’s twenty-year history, we have emphasized that there are two sides to every equation, including the public finance equation. Essential public services require funding. They aren’t free: we have to pool our resources to be able to afford them. That’s why we like to explain the connection between a proposed revenue source and the services it would benefit in our surveys. Voters need to know about both sides of the equation to offer an informed opinion.
The wealth tax questions above aren’t arguments-structured questions (e.g. with proponents say vs. opponents say framing), but we know from years of asking Washingtonians how they feel about a capital gains tax on the wealthy that the right wing’s arguments against a capital gains tax simply do not resonate. It seems very unlikely that arguments against a wealth tax would fare differently.
Washington has been hobbled for years by an upside down tax code, rated as the most inequitable in the nation by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) for many years. Our schools and many other public services have suffered due to underfunding — a problem that could be meaningfully addressed if the wealthy were required to start paying their fair share in dues to our great state.
During last week’s hearing on SB 5486, right wing activists offered a litany of laughable arguments in opposition to the wealth tax, which basically boiled down to, the wealthy deserve their wealth, so how dare you propose this legislation?
It was particularly amusing to hear complaints that the wealth tax was a vehicle for “wealth redistribution.” I had the privilege of closing out the public hearing as the final person to offer remarks, and I pointed out to legislators that a massive redistribution of wealth has already taken place and is still occurring.
“Unless you’re living under a rock, you have to have noticed that wealth redistribution is already happening. We’ve been seeing income inequality widen for decades,” I told the Senate Ways & Means Committee. “And we know that one of the great ways to equalize — to create a better, just, more prosperous society — is for wealth to be invested in the form of taxes. They are investments. It is patriotic to be a taxpayer and pay your dues. And it’s time for extreme wealth in Washington to be invested in the essential public services that the people need.”
Voters in Washington agree — emphatically — as our research shows.
It was only a days ago that Democratic legislators dropped plans to provide no-cost school meals to all pupils in Washington because of “money,” to quote State Representative Marcus Riccelli, a proponent of the idea.
That sorry development was a fresh reminder that our schools are underfunded and we need to raise revenue to fully them — a statement that a majority of Washington voters have told us they agree with for the better part of a decade.
By levying a wealth tax, we can meaningfully address the special education fiscal crisis while also raising funding for disabilities care and housing… and devote further resources to balancing our tax code. Washington would win on all counts.
A tax on extreme wealth that benefits special education, disabilities care, and housing is precisely the kind of progressive change that Washingtonians voted for in the 2022 midterms and want to see from the Democratic House and Senate that they elected. Our polling is fresh proof of that. Let’s get it done!