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 2:12PM
It is a sorry state of affairs.  I don't like either of them.  I am an American first, and an independent a distant second.  I don't think either of them will be able to heal the rift between the left and the right.  It is meaningless who is elected since we will have at least 4 more years of a do nothing congress.
Sep 20, 2012 2:10PM

The Obama so called Payroll Tax Cut, is actually cutting from ones Social Security payments!!!!

Bet lots of people don't know that!

Sep 20, 2012 2:09PM

Well, I don't like to think of it as which one is better for my finances.  I'm personally responsible for my own finances, and don't expect either of them to do anything for me personally.


What I'd really like to see is a candidate who clearly recognizes the financial cliff we're standing on the edge of as a nation, and has the leadership to tell the country that we've got some difficult times ahead, that everyone is going to have to make sacrifices to get the federal debt under control (that includes taxes increases and benefit reductions BOTH).


Of course, someone who has the courage to say that would never get elected, because the lower economic half of the population wants more government assistance and the upper half wants to have more freedom to earn without excessive taxation, and neither of them are willing to give up their own personal interests.


If you want to see things get better in the future, do something about it personally.  Don't wait on the government, or anybody else, to do it for you, because you'll be waiting around for a long, long time.  Buy U.S., spend wisely, save a little something, be generous to those around you who need help (don't assume some agency will take care of them, you take care of them), and see what happens.  You'll be responsible for making a positive difference in your community.


Until Americans get back to doing the basics, and really tighten their belt, we'll keep overspending and point our fingers at each other, getting nothing accomplished.  If that's what you want, count me out.

Sep 20, 2012 2:08PM
Many of you are so deluded - the democrats always have to bail the country out of trouble that the short sighted, weak thinking republicans cause for us.  Afterwards they begin talking like they are the ones who fixed everything, initiated civil rights and started social security and medicare.  Just wait - in about 5 years they will be telling everyone that Obamacare was their plan all along. 
Sep 20, 2012 2:05PM
Vote Romney!  Obama has not done anything to improve our economy.  If anything he has been a big part of the delay in improvement.  He is big government, big taxes, and big money.  Do not be fooled by his claims he is for the little guy.  He has implemented a health care bill that punishes the seniors, limits doctor decision making, and is the biggest rape of social security and Medicare.  His world view is not consistent with the premise of democracy and freedom.  He is into controlling our lives.  We do not want or need government control of our lives.
Sep 20, 2012 2:05PM
The press can rally around Obama all they want (and do) but the emperor has no clothes!
Sep 20, 2012 2:04PM

I would have written earlier but that headline made me laugh so hard I think I tore something.  The answer is: D.  Neither of the above.

Sorry Mitt, it's not your turn.  There are still social programs which need gutting, & no white man will ever be allowed to do it.  So Obama gets 4 more to pull away the safety net.  Then you, or someone like you, can step in to let Wall Street run wild.

That's when those of you who have high paying jobs will be robbed through some kind credit scam.  There's no government help anymore, so you too will wind up as wage slaves.  Gold is too massive to make a usable parachute.  Outstanding debt will entitle the thieves to a bailout.

Of course we don't want food riots (see 1789 France & 1917 Russia), so food stamps will still be available.

Sep 20, 2012 2:03PM
Obama has replaced Carter as th worst president ever.
Sep 20, 2012 2:03PM
Give Obama another four years to obtain his goals, especially if he can get a Republican Congress to work with him.  I guess that's asking too much from the Tea Party.  Radicals do not belong in making decisions for the entire country.
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 2:03PM
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 2:03PM
I think there should be a test in order to vote. The electorate is clueless.  Who cares about these idiotic polls By THE FAR LEFT CONTROLLED MEDIA.


Thank God for FOX.

Let's call a spade a spade people.

Obama is the least vetted, least qualified,  most radical president in our history.  
" LET ME BE CLEAR"  in "OBAMA" speak.

The ONLY choice is Romney to stop what Obama is doing to this Republic.

We must do what is best for OUR COUNTRY.  That is to elect ROMNEY-RYAN

Sep 20, 2012 2:02PM
One economist is an idiot or in the pay of the demos; wait, there's no difference! Obummer will be far, far worse since, if he gets in, he doesn't get IT, and will continue his socialist policies of destroying small business (via the "EPA"), raising taxes not to retire debt but to continue to fund big, FAILED, government (surprise, surprise), destroying religious freedom,  (yeah, you probably think it's just about contraception), and forcing big business to do business a la Russia. Romney will face the ire of Americans who have gotten used to the teat of big government with any attempt to reform our spendthrift, budget busting ways. Oh, lest we forget, Congress is totally irresponsible, make that the Senate under Harry "supporting big, big government" Reid, who has refused to even CONSIDER the quite sensible House budget proposals. So much for "bipartisanship" which is lib speak for my way or the highway.
Sep 20, 2012 2:00PM
Obama has been and will continue to be a great president.  4 more years.
Sep 20, 2012 1:59PM
In the long run....O"bama is better for  the American...however I don't subscribe to all that he has done. The stimulus didn't work...and borrowing from China will come back to "bite' us someday.  Having said that....Romney is a joke!! He's a gaffe a minute disaster. The GOP must "cringe" everytime he's on stage.  And we thought Bush was a "doof"....wait he was!!! Those republican debates were the best sitcoms all season!!! Romney is so far out of touch its pathetic.  The won't be as many cross-over votes from Dem to Rep as many are predicting.  those of us that voted for O'bama will again vote for him.....plus almost all women.
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 1:58PM

**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 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 1:57PM
People who work for a living need Rommney.., people who vote for a living need obama.
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