The tax overhaul that President Trump signed into law now has more supporters than opponents, buoying Republican hopes for this year’s congressional elections.
The growing public support for the law coincides with an eroding Democratic lead when voters are asked which party they would like to see control Congress. And it follows an aggressive effort by Republicans, backed by millions of dollars of advertising from conservative groups, to persuade voters of the law’s benefits.
That campaign has rallied support from Republicans, in particular. But in contrast with many other issues — including Mr. Trump’s job approval rating — it also appears to be winning over some Democrats. Support for the law remains low among Democrats, but it has doubled over the past two months and is twice as strong as their approval of Mr. Trump today.
Erin Parker, a high school history teacher in San Antonio, said she did not like many elements of the law, particularly its big reduction of the estate tax, and said she was skeptical that it would provide much of an economic lift. But Ms. Parker, who described herself as an independent who tends to support Democrats, said the bill would probably help the technology start-up where her husband works.
“Hearing about the implications for my husband’s business improved my view of it a bit,” she said.
Over all, 51 percent of Americans approve of the tax law, while 46 percent disapprove, according to a poll for The New York Times conducted between Feb. 5 and Feb. 11 by SurveyMonkey. Approval has risen from 46 percent in January and 37 percent in December, when the law was passed.
“Public opinion is moving in the direction of this bill,” said Jon Cohen, chief research officer for SurveyMonkey. “Considering where it was, it is dramatically different.”
Mr. Cohen cautioned that the bill still was not particularly popular, and opposition among Democrats remained strong. Still, support has grown even among Democrats, from 8 percent just before the bill passed in December to 19 percent this month. For Democrats, Mr. Cohen said, running on opposition to the bill has become more of a political gamble.
“It’s less of a sure bet than it seemed in December,” he said. “This isn’t a problem yet for Democrats, but the movement isn’t a positive one.”
Other recent polls have shown similar upswings for the law, including a Monmouth University Poll in late January that found support for it had risen to 44 percent nationally, from 26 percent in December.
“I think we are essentially seeing Republicans ‘come home’ on the tax plan in our data,” said Lori Weigel, a partner with Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican polling firm. “That is certainly in part due to consistent communications about the tax plan and the news coverage of prominent companies investing in workers.”
Democrats have done little to counter the Republican messaging and concede it has had an effect, along with a series of high-profile company announcements of bonuses, raises or other benefits attributed to tax savings.
But they are ramping up efforts to rebrand the law as disproportionately helping shareholders and the wealthy, and they contend the boost from bonus announcements will fade.
“There’s only so long you can push a one-time bonus,” said Nicole Gill, executive director of Tax March, a liberal group that has organized rallies and protests against the new law. “The fundamentals of the bill remain the same. The bill that passed is the bill that polled at 35 percent in December, and Democrats should keep talking about that.”
The Times polling suggests that Americans are overestimating the degree to which the benefits of the law’s corporate tax cuts are flowing straight to workers — while underestimating the likelihood that the law will reduce their individual taxes.
Just under one in five respondents expect to see either a raise or a bonus thanks to the law’s business tax cuts. Early returns from public companies indicate that’s an overshot. Just Capital, a nonprofit research organization, analyzed the 90 largest public companies that have announced how they will spend the combined $45 billion in savings they stand to receive from the tax bill this year. It found that those companies planned to pass 6 percent of those savings directly on to workers, with more than half of that spending in one-time bonuses.
“That does not really track to how the public thinks the companies should be spending that money,” said Martin Whittaker, Just Capital’s chief executive.
Only one in three respondents expect to receive a tax cut from the law. The independent Tax Policy Center in Washington estimates that four in five Americans will actually see a tax cut from the law this year, though that number is projected to shrink sharply in 2027 if individual tax cuts expire as scheduled in the law.
Republicans are confident that support will continue to grow as more Americans see lower taxes reflected in their paychecks. Their confidence was reflected this week by Representative Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, who cited Senator Heidi Heitkamp’s vote against the tax bill when announcing he would run for her seat.
“There is no question the tax bill has fundamentally improved the overall political environment for Republicans,” said Josh Holmes, a former campaign manager and chief of staff for Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, who is now president of the public affairs firm Cavalry in Washington.
Close to half of Americans now expect some direct benefit from the law — either a tax cut or a salary increase or bonus. Support for the bill is far stronger among that group: More than three-quarters of Americans approve of the law, compared with less than a third who don’t expect a benefit or aren’t sure.
Gina Coats, a project manager for a plumbing company in Springfield, Mo., said she didn’t follow the tax debate closely last fall. But in January, when she began preparing the company’s payroll systems to handle the new law’s provisions, she realized almost every employee would take home an extra $20 to $40 per week.
“Everyone seems to be a little more upbeat,” Ms. Coats said. “It’s causing people to let go of their money a little more easily.”
Ms. Coats puts herself in that category. A few days ago, she called a contractor to move forward with a long-delayed plan to replace the roof on her house. That decision reflected her tax savings, she said, but also the strength of the local economy, which has meant lots of projects for her company, and stability for its employees.
“If we have more work in the bag, then I feel more comfortable,” Ms. Coats said.
Republicans have long touted tax cuts as a way to promote economic growth. Many economists are skeptical of that approach when unemployment is low and the Federal Reserve is moving to tamp down inflation. Rising support for the bill has coincided with an uptick in consumer confidence, although there aren’t yet clear signs that Americans are spending more.
Colleen Doering, who runs a small facilities maintenance business outside Orlando, Fla., said she and her husband were paying several hundred dollars a month less in taxes as a result of the new law. As a result, they recently decided to spend $10,000 on a landscaping project and started to plan a vacation.
“My paycheck has increased, and if I see it in my paycheck, then I know my employees are seeing it in theirs,” Ms. Doering said.
And the law’s corporate tax cuts are giving the Doerings more money to spend on marketing, which they hope will allow them to expand their three-year-old business and hire more people. That may not be easy, however. Ms. Doering said it was already hard to find good workers, and the stimulus provided by the tax cuts could make it even harder.
“It was becoming more challenging to find good, solid employees with the right skill sets,” Ms. Doering said. “It’s even more challenging because some of these larger companies are grabbing up even more employees.”