Make us your home page

The Nation's Housing: Polls unclear on mortgage interest, property tax deductions

Polls on mortgage, tax write-offs mixed

WASHINGTON — In the congressional and White House negotiations on tax reform — including the mortgage interest and property tax deductions — who has the crucial political advantage of counting documented public opinion on their side?

Is it the real estate and building lobbies who argue that maintaining federal tax benefits are essential, given housing's key role in job creation, household wealth and the fact that real estate is still in a fragile state coming out of the recession and mortgage bust?

Or is the "cut the debt" proponents and economists who see mortgage write-offs as unnecessary, costly and heavily tilted to favor upper-income owners?

In debates on tough issues like these, advocates invariably point to public opinion surveys that show members of Congress where their constituents stand, and implicitly how they should vote. That process is already well under way on Capitol Hill as the tense debt, tax and budget negotiations head toward the Dec. 31 deadline.

But the polls can be confusing. On the one hand, a new survey by National Journal, a publication widely read on Capitol Hill, found larger numbers of Americans willing to limit both the mortgage interest and property tax write-offs than housing proponents suggest.

The poll of 1,001 adults, jointly sponsored by United Technologies Corp. and released Dec. 11, found that 41 percent of respondents favor reducing the deductions for all homeowners, no matter their income, and another 21 percent favor limits on taxpayers earning more than $250,000 a year. Just 31 percent favored retaining the current system, which allows write-offs on up to $1.1 million in mortgage and home equity debt on primary and secondary homes.

The same survey found roughly similar opinions on the property tax deduction: 42 percent said they favor limiting it for all owners, 19 percent support reducing it for high-income households, and 31 percent favor no change in the system.

How to interpret these results? One way is to conclude that despite the housing industry's claims to the contrary, there appears to be noteworthy public opinion support for reducing current mortgage interest and property tax benefits, especially for taxpayers with the highest incomes.

Earlier this year, the National Association of Home Builders commissioned a survey of 1,500 likely voters by a bipartisan pair of pollsters — Republican-leaning Public Opinion Strategies and Democratic-leaning Lake Research Partners. That survey found that 73 percent of respondents were either strongly or moderately opposed to eliminating the mortgage interest deduction and 62 percent opposed any reduction. The same poll found that 54 percent opposed new mortgage deduction limits on households earning $250,000 or more.

On Dec. 13, the Pew Research Center released a national sampling of 1,503 adults. Although a majority of Americans favor limits on tax write-offs in general, and 69 percent favor raising tax rates for households earning $250,000 and up, only 41 percent support cutting back on mortgage interest deductions; 52 percent are opposed. Among Democrats, 45 percent favored limitations. Among Republicans, just 35 percent were willing to support cutbacks.

Jerry Howard, CEO of the National Association of Home Builders, argued in an interview that multiple public opinion polls consistently have shown that a majority is opposed to limiting mortgage interest and other deductions. "There's no question," he said, and the politicians on Capitol Hill should give heavy weight to the public's views on the subject.

The Nation's Housing: Polls unclear on mortgage interest, property tax deductions 12/22/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 18, 2012 4:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Washington Post - Writers Group.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. New town homes sprouting in Oldsmar

    Real Estate


    Times Staff Writer

    OLDSMAR — City officials have been chipping away for several years on a downtown development plan, bringing new life to a 7-acre site on State Street. One day in the not-far-off future, they want to lively streets and walkways used by residents and …

  2. Study: Tampa Bay a top market for homebuyers on the move

    Real Estate

    The Tampa Bay area is among the top markets for homebuyers who are likely to move in the next few months, ATTOM Data Solutions says.

    The Tampa Bay area is among the top markets for homebuyers who are likely to move in the next few months, a survey found.
[Associated Press file photo]
  3. Ousted to political Siberia by Corcoran, Kathleen Peters sets sights on Pinellas Commission

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — The perks of power in Tallahassee are a coveted chairmanship, a Capitol office in a prime location and a prominent seat on the House floor. Now Rep. Kathleen Peters has lost all three, but here's the twist: Her trip to "Siberia" might actually help her reach the next step on the Tampa Bay political …

    Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-South Pasadena, has been relegated to the back row in the State House chamber, moved to a fouth floor office and stripped of her job as chairwoman of a House subcommittee after a series of disagreements with House Speaker Richard Corcoran. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
  4. UPS relocates express operations from St. Pete-Clearwater to TIA


    TAMPA — United Parcel Service Inc. is switching airports for its express air operations. Beginning in October, UPS will relocate from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to Tampa International Airport.

    Beginning in October, UPS will move from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to Tampa International Airport. [Associated Press file photo]

  5. Richard Corcoran takes aim at public financing of campaigns

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, may not be running for governor — not yet anyway — but his latest idea will get the attention of those who are.

    House Speaker Richard Corcoran wants the Constitu?tion Revision Commis?sion to ask voters to repeal the state’s system of partial financing of statewide elections.