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 1:58PM
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.
Sep 20, 2012 1:57PM

Frank Nelson I could not have said it any better, you are absolutely correct,  but I will be voting for OBAMA.....

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...
Sep 20, 2012 1:56PM
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 1:53PM
Since I worked and paid my taxes and I am not rich, Obama is my choice at least he is trying to correct the mess that was left by his predicessor, which most people seem to forget.  The jobs left before the Pres. got into office thank you Bush Jr., and Mit Romney.
Sep 20, 2012 1:53PM
barry is what the progressive have been wating for the last 75 years. He is the grandson of FDR, the son of LBJ and the little brother of Jimmy Carter. He is the one that put the final nail in this once great county. You will be the big loser, myself and others who bought gold and silver well we grow richer and richer as each day of his economic terror continues.
Sep 20, 2012 1:52PM

Romney will get my vote.

We have seen what Obama can do. Obama has devalued the dollar, caused inflation, kept us in a recession, doubled gas prices which kills a personal budget, increased the cost of living, killed the economy, increased taxes and kept millions of Americans unemployed.

Obama talks a good story, but there is no follow up or action to correct anything.


Sep 20, 2012 1:51PM

Obama is a disaster!  $1 Trillion to his banker friends.   Please he's still torturing the prisoners.   When the court rules that those prisoners can sue for damages, we'll be out $billions more.


Prolonging a war for four years, oh I mean six years.  Oh that was really good for the wallet.


Oh, and he's a tax and spend democrat.


Please don't re-elect this crumb!    Unless you want slavery reinstated and want to be poor the rest of your life.


Oh, and Romney put together a successful Olympic games that was profitable.

Sep 20, 2012 1:50PM
We know the horrible waste during the Nomobama administration and not just those green energy loans to Nomo'  contributors like Solyndra. Time to 'change'. Things started down hill  the last two years of the 'W' administration when demos gained control of congress and C. Dodd and B.Frank  caused the mortgage disaster causing the recession we are still in.  Big spenders must go.  Business will have more confidence in our future w/o a socialist idiot, traitor running the country and will feel more  like investing in the future, building jobs.
Sep 20, 2012 1:49PM

Romney!!!   nuf said.


Now go vote

Sep 20, 2012 1:49PM

No -one knows where Obama made his money.....and every one knows where Romney made his! This is a no-brainer folks!


PS Would any one of you dare tell me where Obama made his moneyconsidering all the thumbs down???????.........ObamaBots need not reply!

Sep 20, 2012 1:21PM

Who is better for your finances? HaHaHa! That's a good one! The short answer, NEITHER of them! Are you kidding? Stop and think about it. Where do politicians and governments get money? By just simply taking it from the working people. By taking money in exchange for which they give virtually nothing in return. Who is better for your finances, Obama or Romney, is like asking which is better; to have parasites living on your blood or not... No politician and by extension no gov't is good for your finances. All governments are parasitic, they live off your finances and there is no return on your time or money. Gov'ts have no source of income except what they can force or extort out of the hands of the people. Isn't it about time to wake up?


Sep 20, 2012 12:29PM

Romney would be better for my personal finances, but Obama is better for the country as a whole, and here are some reasons why.


Obama's approach to deficits is closer to Bill Clinton's, which includes spending cuts and targeted tax increases.  Romney's approach calls for spending cuts only, and he leaves defense spending alone. 


Romney would leave the "death tax" at zero.  One of the ways we have avoided becoming a plutocracy is through a progressive tax system and an estate tax (death tax).  If we eliminate either of these, the divide between the super rich and the rest of us will look like the Grand Canyon.


Romney plans to make major cuts to programs such as Medicaid by transferring the burden from the federal government to the states. At the same time, he wants to eliminate the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).  This creates a false savings, because there will be less emphasis on preventive care and more reliance on emergency rooms, costing taxpayers much more in the long run.


Romney will attempt to eliminate most banking regulations. If anything, banking laws need to go further to protect taxpayers and shareholders from high risk activities. It was the repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1999 that led to the 2007-8 financial meltdown.





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 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.
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