Survey shows plurality of Americans favor retaining charitable deduction for top earners

Women, Hispanics show strong support for current system

December 12, 2012

A plurality of Americans around the country oppose limiting or eliminating the charitable tax deduction for households earning more than $250,000 annually, according to a recent Dunham+Company/Wilson Perkins Allen study.

The survey was conducted Dec. 6-9 as lawmakers in Washington discuss ways to avoid the fiscal cliff facing America if the spending cuts and tax increases set to go into effect Jan. 1 are not somehow addressed.

Forty-six percent of Americans surveyed said they opposed limiting or eliminating the charitable tax deduction for households making $250,000 or more a year, compared to 39 percent who said they favored it and 15 percent who were undecided. Opposition was strongest among households making $100,000 or more (57 percent), Hispanics (54 percent), women (49 percent) and households earning less than $30,000 (48 percent).

“Giving USA data shows that households making $250,000 or more a year contribute over $100 billion a year to charity in this country,” said Rick Dunham, President+CEO of Dunham+Company, the fundraising consulting firm that commissioned the study.

“It is especially important that a majority of Hispanics as well as a strong plurality of women, a key giving group, say they do not favor eliminating or limiting the charitable tax deduction on these households,” he said. “As we witnessed in the presidential election, these are key voting blocks.”

The majority of those living in the South (51 percent) also indicated their opposition to limiting or eliminating the charitable tax deduction for high-income households.

In contrast, a plurality of respondents in the Northeast (44 percent) indicated they favored the measure. This mirrors levels of generosity by state, based on The Chronicle of Philanthropy study, “How America Gives.” According to that study, 7 of the top 10 states for giving are in the South and the five worst states for giving are in the Northeast.

“Studies have consistently shown that Americans want to see the charitable tax deduction preserved,” Dunham said. “In April 2011, Gallup asked if the charitable tax deduction should be eliminated to reduce the federal budget deficit and 7 out of 10 Americans said no. And our study earlier this year showed that 78 percent of Americans opposed touching, changing or eliminating it for any income group.

“Now Americans, even those making less than $30,000 per year, are telling us they want the charitable tax deduction preserved as it is for households making $250,000 or more. I believe Americans understand that the giving of these households is vital to sustaining the work of charities, which is so important to so many.”

This study of adults nationwide was conducted on behalf of Dunham+Company by Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research. Respondents were contacted by a live telephone operator for an interview Dec. 6-9, 2012. The study has a sample size of 1,033 adults nationwide and a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.