The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Morgan Shiver, Contributor • June 20, 2024
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All sides miss the point of leaked video showing Romney’s talk of 47 percent who don’t pay income

On Monday, a video of Mitt Romney at a private fundraiser leaked to the public in which he describes the 47 percent of Americans who don’t pay income tax as an unreachable group for his campaign. The media promptly declared that Barack Obama had won the election.

The media, however, is misguided on this point. They’re describing it as Romney looking down poorly on nearly half of the U.S. population, and that it would galvanize that half against Romney and ensure his defeat.

The main problem with that. However, is that a good portion of that 47 percent is actually in Romney’s camp, and won’t be leaving it any time soon. Of the ten poorest states in America-those with the highest percentage of Americans who don’t pay income tax-nine voted for McCain in 2008. Only North Carolina voted for Obama, and probably won’t do that again.
Further, that 47 percent is one of the least likely groups to actually vote, and a statement like what Romney said isn’t likely to increase their turnout at all. In 2008, just under 60 percent of America voted, but for the least wealthy half of America the average was significantly less. Of those making less than $15,000 a year, who are most assuredly part of that 47 percent, only 41 percent actually voted. As income increases, there is a clear, steady, and consistent increase in voter turnout, of people making over $150,000, nearly 80 percent voted.

Romney’s statement is often being compared to Obama’s comment back in 2008 about voters who bitterly cling to their guns and religion not supporting him, but this isn’t a fair assessment. Obama spoke poorly of a selection of voters who are very proud to be religious and gun owning, and wouldn’t have any trouble admitting that to themselves.

The 47 percent of people who don’t pay income tax aren’t likely to be proud of that, nor are they likely to think they’re part of that group. No one looks positively upon those who live off of government and very few would admit to themselves that they do.

Americans and people in general don’t like to admit to being less than average, but statistically half of them are. The situation here is no different. A poll of Americans asking if they considered themselves part of the 47 percent would likely find a very large majority saying they were not.

As for Romney blaming his lack of overwhelming success on this 47 percent, he was mistaken. As a country we’ve risen above the point where we vote on purely economic considerations. Issues such as abortion, gay marriage, gun rights, and others go beyond the point where voters look only at which candidate would help them economically.

Romney should honestly leave the strategy stuff to his strategists. They are much better at describing it in a way that won’t make the press go crazy, and could do so in more detail as well. Strategy isn’t Romney’s expertise. His expertise is bringing companies and government back from the brink of economic collapse. Strategy is the expertise of, oddly enough, the campaign strategists.

Most importantly, they’d be able to do it a way that doesn’t give the media an excuse not to cover that the White House knew about the threat in Libya three days before it happened.
But hey, even though Obama’s bounce disappeared and the race is tied once again, the media wants to talk about how the race is suddenly over because of one thing Romney said that won’t hurt him with anyone who would ever vote for him in the first place.

Keene is a junior majoring in political science, economics and public policy. 

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