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 3:30PM
Obama sucks

When the President took office: 7.8%
Now: 8.3%

Median Household Income:
When the President took office: Almost $55,000
Now: Less than $51,000

Price of Gas:
When the President took office: $1.85 per gallon
Now: $3.78 per gallon (almost double!)

National Debt:
When the President took office: $10.6 trillion
Now: Exceeded $16 trillion last week

Sep 20, 2012 3:28PM
I live in a state run by a Republican Govener. New Jersey to be clear. Our unemployment just rose to 9.8%. Chris Christie is about as Republican as you can get and he is failing. And this seems to be a trend in all Republican run states. It cant all be Obama's fault
Sep 20, 2012 3:28PM
Those of you who do know the truth, republicans spend way more money than Democrats.  Throughout Bush 8 years the debt did not matter when government spending was crazy and unjustified.  The reason that President Obama had to spend what he spent is because the country which was in a surplus before Bush had hit the greatest recession since the great depression and the republican do not want to stop the tax cutes ( which was not paid for).  Then you have the two wars going again not paid for.  Now lets take the wars and tax cuts out of the equation and really see how much the President is spending.  Clinton had to rescue the country 16 yrs ago and now President Obama has to do the same.  Until we as a country face the facts on what put us in these situation we will continue to go through these cycles.  The fact is the policies Bush put in place cause us to go in the worst recession since the GREAT DEPRESSION.  Now Romney wants to go back to the same policies time 5.  Just like the Bush era, he will not say how or if we would pay for them.  If you think the country is not doing good now, vote to put us back in the same policies and us on this site will really feel pain.  I have two questions:  If Romney think 47% of American don't pay taxes are lazy and not responsible then what do he think of himself who is not paying any taxes?  If the republicans really care about jobs why haven't they voted 33x on a job's bill the same way they voted to repeal the affordable care act?  If they care????  Waste of money on those 33 votes as well as time spent on investigating AG Holder.  We know where their priorities are and it not jobs.  Maybe that's why the unemployment rate has halt.
Sep 20, 2012 3:27PM
The question in the headline is telling.  The fact that growing the economy is better for everybody is conveniently left out.  If you think that continued deficit spending won't cause the USA to go the way of Spain and Greece you are mistaken.  That would be a negative for all of us.  The redistributionist has it wrong.  In order to dig our country out of the economic issues we are currently facing, the Romney/Ryan ticket is the only right answer here.  Not that i agree with them in all things, but conceptually I believe that what has made this country great is the individualism, drive and enterprenurial spirit of the American people.  Obama thinks there should be equal results, rather than equal opportunity.


Sep 20, 2012 3:26PM



Sep 20, 2012 3:26PM
Hey Kimberly Palmer......who in their right minds is worried about the damn economy when we (Americans are under attack from the muslum world & the White House) which tells me that there is only one choice...An American citizen who defends our country.....it's a slam dunk when you have an incumbant and his admin. with blood on their handS.. apparently you consider your self a minded materialist like all the other leftist minions that believe obama can achieve economic greatness with the plan from the "COMMUNIST MANIFESTO".  I guess you think that the mid-east problems are a chuck-hole in the road, the deaths of our soldiers are expendable and the "WHITE HOUSE LIES" are a good coordinated effort by obama people that treat biased press appearences like a circus. Yes, the economy is good and when it gets better, it only gets better for the redistribution movement. Wake up America and liberals, get your heads out of the sand. We all built our business's and homes and family.  Get the real meaning of ,"YOU DIDN'T BUILD THAT"  statement and treated like what you leave in an OUTHOUSE.!
Sep 20, 2012 3:25PM

Another wrong question by the media. If finances is all people care about, why don't they just sell drugs? Yes drugs? one of the most profitable enterprises. Society is more than that, create more minimun wage jobs? Is that what some people want? squeez every penny out of everything? turn our safety net for our golden years into a voucher program? cut funding for education? What is going on with these people? What happened to help thy neighbor through the strom? what happen to do right by your employees and prosper? or do right by your employer and prosper?

We are gearing towars a more third world like society where everyone is out to fend for themselves...Just not good!

Sep 20, 2012 3:25PM
That is the dumbest question I have ever heard.  Obama wants to spread your wallet around to those that don't and won't work!
Sep 20, 2012 3:25PM
The CONGRESS controls all federal government money. If you are concerned about the economy and the federal deficit then think hard about who you elect to congress. The president is a nice cheerleader and speaks often on these topics but put the right people in congress and they can make progress.
Sep 20, 2012 3:24PM
Voting for Democrats or Republicans is voting for one side or the other of the same liberty-hating, Constitution-trampling, big government, statist, nanny-stater, interventionist coin.  There are several OTHER political parties to choose from and those of you voting "for the lesser of two evils" are still voting for evil.  Other parties become viable as people VOTE for them.
Sep 20, 2012 3:24PM
I hope all the posters consider educating yourselves on Islam before you vote....
Sep 20, 2012 3:24PM


Yes that's right, very far right policy that began with Reagan. Bush Sr. named it voodoo economics. Taking from the middle class and poor and giving it up to the upper rich folks in tax breaks and in every policy decision repubs make. Bush Sr opposed this idea until he was offered V.P. job by Reagan. The money has flowed upward ever since with CEO's making incredible amounts of money while the actual workers pay remained stagnant. Now the middle class and poor say no more to republican trickle on economics. Trickle down republican economics did not work the last 30 years and the MIDDLE CLASS want their FAIR SHARE BACK!

Romney Ryan plan killls Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Post Office privatizing all the programs for more profit for the GREEDY RICH.

Romney and Ryan want even more tax breaks for the rich so Romney pays almost nothing and middle class pays up to $2000 more in taxes to make up what Romney does not want to pay. Redistribute the wealth back to a fair share for all Americans and not just to Romney Ryan greedy rich.



Sep 20, 2012 3:24PM
In my own opinion not much out there.  Sure won't vote Obama and Romney leaves a lot of unanswered questions..Obama says he'll cut the deficit and he's had three and a half years to do so, instead he keeps adding on.  I think he's finally fining out he is but one man  Politics has become a dirty word and keeps getting worse as the years pass.  Again don't think Romney has anything to apologise for asI do think he has hit the nail on the head.  I am a senior and feel threatened by all thats going on. 
Sep 20, 2012 3:23PM
I will vote for the guy who likes and drinks beer. Romney can't drink beer by his choice of brainwash (religion) so he does not get my vote. Simple as that. Don't try to tell me either I am worse off now than 4 years ago, because you would be lying. 4 years ago they were ready to take my house away. I still have my house today, because we weren't waiting around for anyone to make our situation better, we did it ourself. I would never elect or not elect a president because of my employment situation, it is not up to him to find me a job, it is up to ME. If I have to weed the beans instead of count them now, I do what it takes to support my family. All you whiners who complain there are no jobs should try to do the same, there are alot of jobs out there for those who want them.
Sep 20, 2012 3:22PM
it is a good thing a democrat is in house because freedom of speak is a live and well.  If matter were reversed you would be considered a traitor, lets not forget everyone that spoke out against the war when former President GW Bush was in office was attacked by the media and labeled a traitor to America.  God bless America.  Let's talk about bail out who let their friends close up businesses in America and open up over seas so they can make bigger profits?  I wonder!  You got big business over seas with former America jobs exporting back in to this country so there profits can get bigger and we sit and wait on the cargo.  Everyone in America is getting tried of being treated thus.  We need to start reading where things are made, you will be surprised.  If China ever imposed an embargo on the USA. where would we be?  the next CUBA? I wonder.
Sep 20, 2012 3:21PM

We use to be a country that the world would look up to. The only country to step on the moon, now we don’t even have a space program. Want to go the space station that we headed the building of. Hitch hike up for 20 million with a with what’s left of the soviet union. Apparently, they still can manage to go to space without a country. We use to be the inventors of everything, the phone, the light bulb, airplane, car assembly line Velcro, and the list goes on forever. Now we are known only for our movies globally. And guess what we even premier them abroad first. We are not even good enough to see the movies first. So if this sounds like we are better today, answer me how…how????

Sep 20, 2012 3:20PM
The Ryan budget proposal is inadequate for the financial stability of the United States of America.  It only decreases most of what the liberal Obama added to the budget over the next ten years.  Yes, Bush added too much debt, but Obama has increased the debt addition exponentially.  The populace of the U.S.A. are in for dire future circumstances if the debt/deficit situation is not turned around very soon.  Ron Paul was our best chance but the Republican hierarchy put a stop to that.  One of the absolute best leaders of the last 100 years was Margaret Thatcher who coined the phrase, "The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money" (following what Cicero stated in 55 B.C.). Look up what Cicero stated so long ago as Rome began to fall apart because of stupid financial enterprises.
Sep 20, 2012 3:20PM

I would never vote for Obama. He has lied...He hasn't a clue on how to lead...He has armed our enemies and spit on our allies. He is the epitomy of what a president is not...We do not need an "entertainer" in chief...we do not need a fear monger...



better late than never...

Sep 20, 2012 3:20PM
Romney is the most uptight,  hater of average people that has ever run in an election.  He is so stupid that he cannot remember what he said from one minute to the next.  He is all frayed nerves and looks panicky all the time.  Guess its because he has a gun in his back from the rich white folks who made most of their money illegally and many times on the backs of the poor and unsuspecting.  As president he'd sign an important bill today, then go back to congress tomorrow and say, he wants to change.  Or speak out of turn, and the wrong thing to other leaders.  We'd always have to hold our breadth when we send him anywhere to represent us.
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