Poll: 72% of Mich. voters want Trump to release taxes

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Nearly three-in-four likely Michigan voters believe Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump should adhere to four decades of tradition and publicly release his income tax returns before the Nov. 8 election, according to a new statewide poll.

About 72 percent of likely Michigan voters said Trump should release his taxes, according to a statewide poll of 600 likely voters conducted for The Detroit News and WDIV-TV.

The poll found 48 percent of Trump’s supporters say the New York businessman should release his tax records. About 30 percent of Trump supporters said he should not show the public his taxes returns, while 70 percent of undecided voters said he should.

“When even a plurality of your own supporters say you should release them, it’s a clear answer what voters believe on this issue,” said pollster Richard Czuba, president of the Glengariff Group Inc., which conducted the poll for The News and WDIV. “Nearly every demographic group except Republican voters are above 60 percent in release of his taxes.”

Report: Trump may not have paid taxes for years

The polling was conducted Sept. 27-28 before The New York Times reported late Saturday on 1995 Trump tax records it obtained that showed how Trump could have avoided paying federal income taxes for nearly two decades after declaring a $916 million loss that year. Trump’s supporters shot back on Sunday against the Times’ report, calling the real estate developer a “genius” and portraying him as a turn-around artist who would be good for the country, Bloomberg reported.

Trump’s losses, stemming from mismanagement of Trump’s three Atlantic City casinos and other business investment blunders, were so substantial that year, he could have paid no taxes on $50 million of annual income over the next 18 years, the Times reported.

The Trump campaign issued a statement late Saturday night that did not outright deny the authenticity of the tax records, only saying the documents were “illegally obtained” by the Times. His supporters took to the Sunday news shows to defend Trump’s actions and declare “what this shows is what an absolute mess the tax code is,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said on “Fox News Sunday.”

"Mr. Trump is a highly-skilled businessman who has a fiduciary responsibility to his business, his family and his employees to pay no more tax than legally required,” the Trump campaign said in a statement.

Trump’s campaign said the real estate mogul and celebrity billionaire has “paid hundreds of millions of dollars in property taxes, sales and excise taxes, real estate taxes, city taxes, state taxes, employee taxes and federal taxes, along with very substantial charitable contributions.”

“Mr. Trump knows the tax code far better than anyone who has ever run for president and he is the only one that knows how to fix it,” the Trump campaign said.

Finley: Is Trump trying to lose?

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has published her tax returns on her campaign website for every year dating back to 2007, when she started first ran for president.

In 2015, former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton paid and effective federal income tax rate of 34.2 percent on $10.6 million of income, a majority of which came from paid speeches Bill Clinton gave and book royalties.

Major party presidential candidates have disclosed their tax returns in every election since 1976.

Trump has repeatedly said he can’t disclose his records because he’s under audit by the Internal Revenue Service.

In last Monday’s presidential debate, Clinton railed on Trump for “stiffing” contractors when his businesses failed, resulting in six bankruptcies where unsecured creditors such as vendors routinely get wiped out.

Trump attempted the turn-the-transparency tables on Clinton, saying he will show the public his taxes when she accounts for 33,000 pages of emails from her time as secretary of state that were deleted. Clinton has contended the emails were about personal and private matters.

“I will release my tax returns — against my lawyer's wishes — when she releases her 33,000 e-mails that have been deleted,” Trump said. “As soon as she releases them, I will release.”

Clinton noted the IRS has said taxpayers such as Trump are free to release their tax returns while under audit.

“So you've got to ask yourself, why won't he release his tax returns?” Clinton asked. “And I think there may be a couple of reasons. First, maybe he's not as rich as he says he is. Second, maybe he’s not as charitable as he claims to be.”

Clinton speculated Trump has “paid nothing in federal taxes.”

“That makes me smart,” Trump responded.

“So if he’s paid zero, that means zero for troops, zero for vets, zero for schools or health,” Clinton continued.

The Detroit News-WDIV telephone operator poll was conducted by Lansing-based Glengariff Group Inc. during the two days following the Sept. 26 debate.

Across all age groups, support for Trump releasing his tax returns was lowest at 63 percent among voters age 40-49. About 82 percent of young voters age 18-29 favored Trump disclosing his records.

Czuba, the pollster, said it’s unclear whether the issue of Trump’s unreleased tax returns will sway voters, particularly those who remain undecided with five weeks to go before the Nov. 8 election.

“I suspect his failure to release his tax records already has been such a forefront issue that those who are bothered about it have already factored in his failure to release his taxes into their decision,” Czuba said Sunday. “And those who are not bothered have made their decision.”

Clinton led Trump by 7 percentage points in The News and WDIV’s poll, 42 percent to 35 percent, in a four-way race with Libertarian Gary Johnson at 9 percent and Green Party candidate Jill Stein at 3 percent. In a two-way match-up, Clinton maintained a 7-point advantage over Trump.

The survey of 600 likely voters had a sample of 41 percent Democrats, 33 percent Republicans and 26 percent self-described political independents.

The poll had a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4 percentage points.


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Twitter: @ChadLivengood

Poll question on Trump’s taxes

Do you think Donald Trump should release his tax returns?

Yes 71.7% (430)

No 15.3% (92)

Don’t Know/ Depends/ Refused 13.0% (78)

Source: Glengariff Group, Inc. survey of 600 likely Michigan voters conducted Sept. 27-28 with 35 percent of voters called on cellphones and 65 percent called on landlines. The poll was commissioned by The Detroit News and WDIV -TV.