Obama or Romney: Who's better for your finances?

One economist says it's pretty simple: Richer folks will likely benefit more from Romney's policies, while lower-income Americans will benefit more from Obama's.

By MSNMoney partner Sep 20, 2012 9:03AM
US News logoBy Kimberly Palmer

When it comes to deciding which candidate is better for your financial life, the answer isn't entirely obvious. In fact, voters hold widely varying views on how the two candidates will likely influence the economy, often depending on their own income levels and financial situations.

Here's where Americans stand:

Voters believe presidents have a big impact on their money—to a degree.

"The economy is really on people's minds at this point, even more so than in past years just because it has been such a tough last couple years for Americans' finances," says Claes Bell, senior banking analyst at Bankrate.com, although he adds that "pocketbook issues" often play a major role in elections.

A Bankrate.com survey taken in June found that almost six in 10 Americans say their personal finance situation is either the most important factor or one of the most important factors in determining which candidate they'll vote for.

Still, Americans are skeptical that either candidate will actually be able to substantially improve their financial lives. Half of the survey respondents said that when it comes to affecting their own finances, it doesn't matter which president ends up getting elected. "It seems like people are thinking, 'We're stuck in the economic rut, and they doubt that specific policies will help us out,'" says Bell. Among those who thought that the president would impact their personal finances, they were equally divided on selecting the better candidate.

Americans are faced with two candidates who offer sharply different views on economic policy.

"The Romney crowd would say, 'If we have low taxes, and we get rid of regulation and reduce public spending, the economy will grow at a faster rate.' They're being guided by the (Paul) Ryan budget, (which includes) significant cuts in taxes and cutting back the size of the state," says resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute Desmond Lachman. Much of that is designed to stimulate business, he adds, "so you'd think it would be beneficial to people owning stocks, people in the upper-income brackets."

Lachman adds, though, that the Federal Reserve's policies under President Barack Obama have helped to buoy equity prices, and Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney would likely take a different approach. (Romney has said that he would replace Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke.)

Obama, meanwhile, has focused more on economic policies that affect the middle and lower classes, including health insurance coverage, student loan support, social services, and extending the payroll tax cut. "At the high-end of the income scale, he'd be raising taxes, whereas the Ryan budget cuts taxes across the board," says Lachman. Obama has also supported the extension of benefits for the unemployed as well as other social services, from food stamps to Medicaid.

Of course, presidents don't make policies unilaterally, and each candidate would have to work with Congress to pass legislation. For Obama, that could mean working again with a Republican-dominated Congress. "Tea party members are not prepared to compromise, so I'd expect you'll get more of the same in terms of economic performance," Lachman says.

In general, Lachman says, people in the upper-income brackets will likely benefit more from Romney's policies, while lower-income Americans will benefit more from Obama's.

Republicans and Democrats feel differently about their own financial situations and the financial health of the country.

"Partisanship seems to be having a pretty intense effect on how people view their personal finances," says Bell. A recent Bankrate.com survey found that a third of Republicans feel "more comfortable with their debt now versus one year ago," while just one-quarter of Democrats said the same. Possible reasons include that Republicans might fall into the higher-income bracket and have lower debt levels, or that Republicans tend to be more fiscally conservative in both their private lives and political beliefs, says Bell.

Bell believes respondents who support Obama also tend to feel more optimistic about the economy, and to "feel things are going better than they are," while Romney supporters tend to "feel things are going worse than they actually are." The intense emotions surrounding the election, he says, appear to be affecting perceptions of the economy.

Age and income level have an influence on how voters perceive the election.

Age also has an impact on voters' views. Bankrate.com found that among voters under age 30, 10 percent said their personal financial situation will be better under Romney, while 29 percent said it will be better under Obama.

A recent Pew report found that 63 percent of Americans say Republicans "favor the rich over the middle class and poor," and seven in 10 "believe the policies of a President Mitt Romney would be good for wealthy people." Meanwhile, six in 10 respondents said Obama's policies will help the poor, and half said they will help the middle class. Pew concludes that among middle-class adults, "neither candidate has sealed the deal."

As both candidates make their case to voters in the final months leading up to the election, each will try to do just that.

More from US News & World Report

Sep 20, 2012 1:57PM
People who work for a living need Rommney.., people who vote for a living need obama.
Sep 20, 2012 5:14PM
It all depends on if you have a job, pay taxes, or if you are one of those who are being taken care of by the goverenment.
Sep 20, 2012 2:03PM
Obama has replaced Carter as th worst president ever.
Sep 20, 2012 5:13PM

As I see it, this election is not about the failed policies and programs of the Obama Administration or about what Mitt Romney can do, this election is about whether we continue down the path of Socialism, towards Communism or do we return to a Democracy.

Sep 20, 2012 2:03PM
Obama believes in taking money from the business owners to pay for the entitlements of the poor.  It's the "give a man a fish" deal, and makes the poor dependent on the govt.  It also adds a burden on the business owners who cannot earn enough to stay in business, and so layoff workers, go out of business, or move out of the country.  Romney favors tax cuts for the business owners, who then can afford to hire people or retool their shops to produce a better product, grow business, and therefore need to hire even more people. 
Sep 20, 2012 1:58PM
We would be better off with Romney. With Obama "unleashed" for four more years the United States will no longer exsist....he is bankrupting this country on purpose so in another four years he will make the US a socialist/communist country. Obama is a "very dangerous" man....he is Soros' puppet and the goal is to destroy the "free world" as we know it. Romney may not be perfect BUT MAKE NO MISTAKE PEOPLE IF OBAMA GET RE-ELECTED THIS COUNTRY IS A GONER!!!! He is NOT  trying to do what Clinton did. He is destroying the US for George Soros. Soros must of promised him [Obama] that he gets to be the dictator which is a surprise cause Soros wants to be the dictator!!!!
Sep 20, 2012 1:59PM
Sorry I can't vote for Obama again.  He's too divisive and I think he's in over his head.
Sep 20, 2012 1:57PM
What a biased bunch of liberal media crap. Simply look at this country after 4 years of this obummer guy and look at your pocket book and then ask yourself the question which one would be better? how stupid this guy is intentionally killing us in every way. Stop with your liberal crap already we are all sick of it...

We should be getting our fiscal house in order.  You can't continue to borrow money you can't pay back.  The only candidates which can help us are Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. 


To flood the market with printed money as this administration is allowing, the only thing President Obama will be noted for is the man who allowed America's wealth in commodities to be sold at a yard sale for pennies on the dollar to the rest of the world while Americans have to pay $7.50 for a gallon of gas due to the devaluing of our dollar.


We have to vote this administration out of office.   President Obama is such an Amateur.

Sep 20, 2012 2:48PM

I voted for Obama in 2008.  I believed his speeches and his promises. He's been a major disappointment.  He has created a major divide in the country and didn't keep his promises.  I will NOT be voting for him again.  He's turning the country from a democracy into a socialistic country.  Too many are now dependent upon the government.  The tax base is smaller and there are more people living off the taxpayer. 

Obama wants to increase taxes on the wealthy without doing anything to eliminate the waste and fraud of the welfare programs he has supported.  You have to pass a drug test to get a job, but not to get welfare or any other government assistance.  There is too many receiving aid that are just lazy and work other jobs for cash... and still collect welfare.  Too many unwed mothers having litters of children with taxpayers money.  It's ridiculous.  Government needs to stop being a charity.  The federal government can't effectively manage squat. 

Sep 20, 2012 11:59AM
Mr Obama ... try being a statesman today ... and create a job for someone, if you can.  Mr Romney, keep saying it as it is, expose the 'rot' in Washington, and try and get elected.  Ignore your minders, and say/do what is right.
Sep 20, 2012 2:18PM

america is in debt.  the president has no clue of where he took this country to.  at his most recent tv appearance, said, he believed that our problem is temporary. Temporary?  they are operating this country with borrowed money at 4BILLIONS $$$$ A DAY.  we are 16 trillions in debts and counting and in his mind, it is a short term problem?  he is so out of touch and you guys are going to re-elect him?

Sep 20, 2012 1:58PM

**LIBERAL BIAS ALLERT**  The liberal spin in this article is unbelievable.  And, bankrate.com is cited as a source, as if it is neutral.  Rather, bankrate.com routinely puts out articles published on this site which have tremendous liberal bias.  While the article is correct that Obama focus on lower income voters, or the "taker class" whose votes he tries to buy with redistributed wealth--Socialism--Romney's policies are not designed to benefit the rich.  Rather, Romney and Republicans want to grow the economy so it's better, and so there's more for everyone.  Isn't the idea for the economy to improve and for everyone to have opportunity, to have jobs, and to prosper, not for the government to support people.


Sep 20, 2012 3:03PM

If you ever wondered which side of the fence you sit on, this is a great test!

If a Freedom Loving American doesn't like guns, he doesn't buy one.
If a Leftist doesn't like guns, he wants all guns outlawed.

If a Freedom Loving American is a vegetarian, he doesn't eat meat.
If a Leftist is a vegetarian, he wants all meat products banned for everyone.

If a Freedom Loving American is homosexual, he quietly leads his life.
If a Leftist is homosexual, he demands legislated respect.

If a Freedom Loving American is down-and-out, he thinks about how to better his situation.
A Leftist wonders who is going to take care of him.

If a Freedom Loving American doesn't like a talk show host, he switches channels.
Democrats demand that those they don't like be shut down.

If a Freedom Loving American is a non-believer, he doesn't go to church.
A Leftist non-believer wants any mention of God and religion silenced.

If a Freedom Loving American decides he needs health care, he goes about shopping for it, or may choose a job that provides it.
A Leftist demands that the rest of us pay for his.

If a Freedom Loving American reads this, he'll forward it so his friends can have a good laugh.
A Leftist will read this and report it as spam because the truth about the way they think is not suppose to be made public and it is offensive to them !!

Sep 20, 2012 5:07PM
The answer is simple. Are you better off then you were 4 years ago? With gas prices triple. Groceries more. No jobs or low paying jobs? If your not better off then you need to vote against Obama and try a new change. His policies are NOT WORKING!!!! If you dont vote at all that vote could have been the vote needed to get him out of office. If you do vote and its against Obama because your not better off that vote could be the one vote to get him out of office and try a new change.
Sep 20, 2012 2:19PM
An economy which creates wealth offers the potential for everyones standard of living to rise; but redistributing wealth only causes everyone but the government to become poor.  Then, when there are no more producers, only government dependents and politcal elitist bureaucrats, we go bankrupt like every other socialist nation in history.  Witness the condition of the present European welfare state.  "The only problem with socialism is that eventually, you run out of other peoples money to spend!"  Margaret Thatcher
Sep 20, 2012 1:54PM
ARE YOU GUYS FOR REAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, Obama hates business, he has done everything possible to destroy our economy, and wants to re-distribute our wealth.  Main stream media keeps hiding all the ineptness of Obama and not report the truth, you will have a real surprise in November
Sep 20, 2012 3:48PM

Which candidate is better for the country, if the country is healthy our wallets should be too.  So, I'll take the business guy!!



Sep 20, 2012 2:03PM
Seems like the question should be which candidate would be better for my children and grandchildren's economic future. For those people currently reliant on the government for all their basic needs, I'm sure they would be Obama supporters. Why not? They really don't care that the country is going broke and that in a few decades spending at this rate there will be no pubic assistance or medicare or even social secutiry for anyone. However, if they want their children to someday excell and do better than they did economically, then the choice for them would not be quite so clear cut.    
Sep 20, 2012 2:58PM

idiots- he is destroying liberty, freedom and the USA

When people feed animals in a park they become dependent.  That is what is happening.  Soon enough if you do not look out the gov will be big enough to feed you what they want and when they want and will regulate you taking sh_ts.  Dont you see the lies?

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