Poll: Public supports disclosure of tax returns for presidential candidates

Graphic by Sunlight Foundation

A New York Times/CBS News national poll released yesterday found that nearly 6 in 10 registered voters think it is necessary that presidential candidates release their tax returns.

Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, has so far refused to release his own returns, telling ABC’s Good Morning America, “it is none of your business.” According to the Washington Post, Trump’s 1981 return revealed he paid the federal government $0 in income taxes. Only 38 percent of the poll’s respondents said that it was “not necessary” for candidates to disclose tax returns.

Since 1973, every president and presidential candidate has voluntarily disclosed his or her tax returns.

We think there is a clear public interest in disclosure of tax returns by presidents and presidential candidates, and we called on Congress to mandate their disclosure.

Sunlight’s John Wonderlich said last week, “Decades of experience have taught us that the finances of presidents and candidates are essential to our public understanding and political dialogue.”

Just because candidates defy our standards for transparency does not mean citizens have to accept a new and more opaque political dialogue. It looks like voters agree that tax returns are important information to consider when casting a vote and we’ll have to see if public opinion could put enough pressure on Congress to act or to encourage Trump to disclose his tax returns.

The poll was conducted May 13 through May 16 and you can read more about the methodology at the New York Times.