While lawmakers in Washington warn of a “fiscal cliff” and some claim higher taxes are needed to rein in the federal deficit, a new poll shows roughly half of Americans think the talk is just a ruse to spend more money.

A Rasmussen Reports poll released today asked a sample of 1,000 likely voters, “If Congress and the president raise taxes to reduce the federal deficit, are they likely to use the new tax money for deficit reduction or would they spend it on new government programs?”

A plurality of likely voters – 48 percent – asserted the federal government will simply use new tax revenue to fund a bigger government. Only 38 percent disagreed, believing higher taxes would be used to drop the deficit.

The inherently suspicious answer remains an underlying current in a voter base that has recently come to favor higher taxes, but apparently would like lawmakers to do what they promise with the new funds.

Rasmussen polls from earlier this month show 57 percent of voters favor a tax increase on those earning more than $250,000 per year, while 68 percent of Americans would like to see Congress attack the deficit with a balanced mixture of less spending and more revenue.

Some, however, are clearly more suspicious of Washington’s tax motives than others.

According to the pollster, “Democrats, who typically display more faith than others in politics and government, are the most optimistic. Fifty-four percent of the voters in President Obama’s party believe new tax monies will go to deficit reduction. Sixty-nine percent of Republicans think the money will be used for new programs instead.”

Similarly, members of the two parties diverge in their opinion of the federal government in general. The same poll found the majority of Democrats (59 percent) hold a favorable view of Washington, while the overwhelming majority of Republicans (86 percent) and independent voters (73 percent) hold a negative view of the current government.

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