Analysis: Romney’s ‘47 percent' talk explains his struggles with swing voters

Mitt Romney campaigned in the Ohio rain Friday. Mitt Romney campaigned in the Ohio rain Friday. Charles Dharapak/AP

On pure philosophy alone, Mitt Romney’s Mother Jones moment offers two revealing glimpses into why he’s trailing President Obama even in a listless economy. Both revolve around how swing voters view economic policy.

In a now-infamous video posted Monday at MotherJones.com, Romney tells the audience at a private fundraiser that “47 percent” of voters, for reasons of government dependency, are destined to vote for Obama this fall.

“All right,” the Republican nominee says, “there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it… my job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

Romney also explains that those 47 percent don’t pay any federal income taxes, “So our message of low taxes doesn’t work.”

The danger of growing dependence on government - and the economic healing power of low taxes – are both themes that play very well with Republicans, presumably including the donors at the event on the tape. More than three in five Republicans disagree with the notion that “the government should guarantee every citizen enough to eat and a place to sleep,” the Pew Research Center Values Study found earlier this year. An April CBS News/New York Times poll found seven in 10 Republicans said lowering taxes was the best way to improve economic growth.

The problem for Romney is, independent voters – the middle “5 to 10 percent” of the electorate he talks about winning over in the fundraiser video – don’t share those views.

The Pew poll found about three in five independents endorse the idea of government guaranteeing citizens food and a bed. Roughly the same number agree that government “should take care of people who can’t take care of themselves.”

Perhaps even more critically, the CBS News/New York Times poll found fewer than two in five independents believe lower taxes are the route to faster growth, compared to more than half who favor increased government spending and higher taxes.

If Romney wanted to argue that the poor have grown a little too fond of government help, or that America can’t afford to keep borrowing to fund a safety net, the Pew polls suggest large swaths of independent voters would be receptive. But that wasn’t the argument he made at the fundraiser. He was contending that his low-tax message works with independents, but not the government-dependent, which appears not to be true.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.