Poll: Death to the Death Tax

Voters in heartland swing states approve of an estate tax repeal and would like to see their senators vote for it in Congress, according to a new poll.

The poll, from polling firms McLaughlin & Associates and Public Opinion Research, questioned 2,000 voters from five states — Louisiana, New Mexico, Iowa, Montana and South Dakota — two of which went for former Vice President Al Gore in the presidential election.

Up to 70 percent of those polled said they supported a repeal of the federal tax on estates, also known as the "death tax," while nearly 90 percent of those polled said they believed it is unfair to tax assets once and then again when the person dies.

Several of the senators from the polled states are Democrats who could face political heat if they oppose the repeal. More than 50 percent of those polled said they would be less likely to vote for any of the six Democratic senators if that senator voted to keep the estate tax.

In Louisiana, 53 percent of respondents identified themselves as Democrats and 71 percent of respondents said they supported repealing the death tax. Both Louisiana Sens. John Breaux and Mary Landrieu are Democrats who support repealing the estate tax.

In Montana, 68 percent of respondents favored repealing the death tax while 71.3 percent in New Mexico, 74 percent in Iowa and 75.9 percent in South Dakota supported the repeal.

The estate tax repeal is most popular in states with high concentrations of farmers and ranchers — and Montana and South Dakota had the highest rates of voters listing farming, ranching or agriculture as their profession.

Although the tax does not affect assets under $675,000, many farm-based families have most of their assets tied up in land, so they often feel they an excessive burden is slapped on their families when they pass their estates on to their heirs.

Bob Martin, spokesman for Rep. Tim Johnson, D-SD, said it didn't surprise him that voters in South Dakota supported repealing the tax "because they voted overwhelmingly to abolish the state's estate tax" earlier this year.

He added that Johnson supports an exemption for the first $4 million for individual estates and $8 million for small businesses before the estate tax would kick in.

"That would effectively eliminate the estate tax for all South Dakotans," he said.