Republicans’ “Defund the IRS” bill

The Grow Progress Team

Summary: An editorial by the Washington Post was highly effective at increasing net opposition to Republicans’ “Defund the IRS” bill, while the political messages we tested had no net effects. 


How do people respond to public statements about HR 23, House Republicans’ “Defund the IRS” bill?

We excerpted messages from various political leaders and the media, and tested their effects on support of or opposition to the bill. 


The first bill that House Republicans passed this 118th session of Congress was to roll back the vast majority of the IRS budget increase passed by the previous Congress. Since the Senate and Presidency are controlled by Democrats who support the IRS budget increase, this bill was never going to pass into law, but it was clearly intended as a political statement intended to convey a story to the American people. 

What worked?

The message from the editorial board of the Washington Post was especially effective, both at increasing opposition to the bill, and decreasing support. 

Other messages, whether they came from Democrats or the Republicans, tended to increase support for the bill while only marginally increasing opposition, if at all.

See the text of all messages at the bottom of this post.

In the graphic below, we see the increase in opposition that each message caused. Reminder: increase in opposition is the outcome that we’re seeking!

The next graphic shows the increase in support that each message caused. Since respondents could tell us that they supported the resolution, opposed it, or were undecided, a given message could conceivably increase both opposition and support. Reminder: we’re seeking decreased support, not increased support.

Most of the messages increased support, led by the Republicans’ message, but the messages from Democrats also increased support. In fact, all the messages from Democratic officials increased support more than they increased opposition, resulting in a net negative effect. 

In contrast, the Washington Post message increased opposition by 11 percentage points while also decreasing support by 5 percentage points. It was far and away the most effective message.

Another way to look at results — Net Effects

It can be confusing to sort through multiple views of your test results. The Grow Progress Rapid Message Testing platform now includes a new feature called the “net effects” view. It allows you to view effects toward your desired outcomes and away from your undesired outcomes in a single view. 

To access that view, we designated the two “oppose” options as positive, and the two “support” options as negative, and applied this change so the system would re-run the analysis.

In the graphic below, you can see that the Washington Post message had a 16 percentage point net effect on increasing opposition, while all the other messages had small net effects toward increasing support, though none was statistically significant.

This view makes it easy to quickly identify the most effective message, even when your test includes a mix of positive and negative messages that cause varying effects under the surface.


Nancy Pelosi

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi issued this statement after House Republicans voted to make it easier for wealthy individuals and big corporations to cheat on their taxes:

“It is shameful, but not surprising, that House Republicans’ first order of business in this Congress is to protect corporate America and ultra-wealthy individuals who are illegally avoiding taxes.

“Last summer, Democrats proudly enacted the Inflation Reduction Act: a strong step toward tax fairness that improved taxpayer services for families and bolstered resources to ensure the wealthiest few and greediest corporations will pay what they owe. Now, Republicans want to rip away these resources, which will drive up the deficit and let wealthy tax cheats off the hook.

“This new MAGA Majority in the House will always choose its rich donors and political interests over the well-being of working families. House Democrats are fighting back against this extreme agenda — because we put People Over Politics.”

House Republicans

House Republicans released the following statement on January 9:

Republicans are blocking the Biden Administration from unleashing 87,000 new IRS agents to go after families and small businesses and their unprecedented increase in IRS audits. The “Family and Small Business Taxpayer Protection” Act rescinds all new IRS funding for squeezing middle-class families and small businesses, while enhancing the services Americans expect to receive from their government. The IRS should be focused on providing quality service to taxpayers, not targeting them.

Republicans want an IRS that works for taxpayers; Democrats want an IRS that works against them.

Washington Post

The Washington Post Editorial Board published the following editorial on January 12:

For the past three years, the IRS has failed to do its most basic job: processing tax returns in a timely manner. There are many reasons. The pandemic upended almost everything for a while. Years of staffing and budget cuts left the agency shorthanded. Ancient computer systems hampered operations.

Yet House Republicans made it their first priority this year to pass legislation slashing IRS funding, which would worsen the agency’s problems — and the service it provides Americans.

Congress’s priority should be modernizing the IRS and getting it back to full functionality. That’s why Democrats passed $80 billion in extra funding for the agency over the next decade as part of last year’s Inflation Reduction Act. But House Republicans moved Monday to strip the IRS of $71 billion of the new funding and thwart the agency’s auditing process.

Senate Democrats

Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) released the following statement tonight after the House of Representatives took up their first legislation that would cut billions of dollars of Internal Revenue Service funding and undercut the Inflation Reduction Act.

“The Senate Democratic Majority knows this is a giveaway to the multi-millionaires and big corporations and Democrats won’t let it happen. 

“Too many wealthy individuals and large corporations – through gaping loopholes – don’t pay their fair share of taxes while average Americans often pay a much higher percent. The thousands of increased IRS personnel are aimed at closing those loopholes and forcing the wealthy and well-connected to finally pay their fair share.

“It is incredible that the first move House Republicans make this Congress is to cut these agents and allow large corporations and wealthy individuals to continue to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.”


Statement from Vice President Kamala Harris on House Republicans’ First Bill Being a Giveaway to Rich Tax Cheats at the Expense of the Middle Class:

For decades, some of our nation’s wealthiest individuals and richest corporations have failed to pay what they owe in taxes.

Last year, President Joe Biden and I worked with Democrats in Congress to finally make sure everyone pays their fair share to help fund our schools, hospitals, military, and other critical priorities.

Now, as one of their first acts in the majority, House Republicans are rushing to undo that progress and allow too many millionaires, billionaires, and corporations to cheat the system.

As we have since we took office, President Biden and I will continue to fight to make sure all people in our nation play by the same rules.