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

Start the Government over vote against all incumbents...16 Trillion in debt?  Obama was responsible for 30% in his tenure more than any 5 presidents in history.  HIS PLAN get rid of 4 trillion in over 10 years...after increasing it 5 in 3 and a half years.  We need new senators and congressmen and not so many.  Don't create jobs and look again at global logistics where we playing Russian Roulette...as for Romney he doesn't inspire confidence and seems a pawn for business.  We need an actor for president for diplomacy and  a vice president who can run congress and delete all the legislation.  I liked the concept of zero based budgeting but it needs good management.  WE can't even place a limit on debt with congress for it gets cancelled by the current incumbants.  People in government accounting only get their budget replaced if they spend it all, there are not rewards for frugal people...get control now and rebuild our infrastucture in government...

You know it is really difficult sometimes to pick through the heavy liberal spin you people put on your articles to find some nuggets of truth. I suggest you rename you website to FLNM, Flaming Liberal News Media.

Sep 20, 2012 3:19PM
Turning a blind eye to the Obama mess is not very educated Hurley. If Obama is so good to the middle class than why are so many in the middle class suffering under Obama? The only thing that has ever worked to get a bad economy going again is lower taxes not spending more money. Now it appears Obama has designed his own flag. Pretty sad! What is wrong with the American flag? 
Sep 20, 2012 3:18PM

Dexter426, your lack of spelling makes us wonder who you really are....but the fact remains, it's not about race, but ability.

Sep 20, 2012 3:18PM
They keep telling us that Romney want win, so we will get discouraged, and not vote, but I will be there, I can personally see Obama has done and wants to destroy us more in the future, even ask us to let him, get real, four more yrars oh no!
Sep 20, 2012 3:17PM

Obama is bad for all of us , kick him to the curb!!!!!

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 3:17PM
just went over to see what the top 10 states were, that had the most children and senior's going hungry and way below the poverty level all tenn states except one ohio are southern and republican governed, and some of you say the president is a welfare president, and democrat's want this look's too me like the republicans are much worse.
Sep 20, 2012 3:17PM
DUH ! Of course the lower income people would be better off with Obama, since he wants to support them all to make them dependant on him and the government . I call it buying votes. Whatever happened to making it on your own according to your ability and ambition. This countries people have always prided themselves with a solid work ethic , but the "what can the government do for me" attitude is killing that pride. So sad !
Sep 20, 2012 3:17PM

post office broke

medicaid broke

social security broke

unemployment broke

schools are broke

trillions in debt but lets add insurance to the broke pot

Obama is moving backward


Sep 20, 2012 3:15PM
I believe this election is not only about the economy & jobs! It is also a referendum on American Morals & Ideals-self relience built this Great Country- Government Dependency will destroy IT! Romney IS THE ONLY POSSIBLE CHOICE!
Sep 20, 2012 3:14PM

WOW! The trolls are out in masses today.

Sep 20, 2012 3:14PM
How can the poor benefit more with Obama as President?  They pay no federal taxes and depend on the federal government for their livelihood already.
Sep 20, 2012 3:13PM

let's see Obama cut medicare, passed Obamadeathcare full

of cuts and taxes, wants to raise more taxes, shut down cheap

energy so now gas and everything else is skyrocketing like he

said he would do, stimulus and bailouts to his friends family

and unions, clask for clunkers, more people on welfare and

foodstamps than ever and no jobs! Romney believes in capitalism,

lower taxes, freedom!!!! duh? I think i'll go with Romney and freedom

not big govt union welfare nanny socialist agenda!

Sep 20, 2012 3:13PM
There are, of course, several OTHER national party candidates to choose from.  But, of course, the Democrats, Republicans and their media sycophants don't want you to know about them, so they continue to LIE by making it seem as if there are only the two.
Sep 20, 2012 3:12PM

Vote for Obama and you have more of the same...a president that cannot do anything because he does not have the support of congress. I'm willing to take a chance on "change" Vote for Romney and maybe we can all have the American dream again an end this American nightmare. Are we better today than 4 years ago. No I'm a professional who makes half of what he used to, I could have skipped college 25 years ago and be making the same amount of money today if I was one of the few lucky enough to find a job. It's embarrasing to have gone to school and worked for 25 years to have loss everything like so many others to this economy.

Sep 20, 2012 3:12PM

Why are you people hiding your profile picture & talking a lot of stuff ??

are you That Ugly...or you don't want folks to see you're tea bags...

Dangling from your cap...or sombrero !!!

Sep 20, 2012 3:11PM
New News for the uninsured.  Since 6 million do not have insurance and do not want it, they will be taxed.  Who will be blamed for this, Bush?  Oh wait didnt Osama write this stupid tax law? Wake up 47% and get a job and pay your own way and quit depending on the rich to pay your way.  Why should anyone tell me I am only allowed to make x amount of dollars when I take all the risk and invest my time when you sit on your ****?
Sep 20, 2012 3:11PM

I would have been much better off under the Roosevelt (teddy) administration......Yeal.


At that time there was no income tax.... the Federal Govenment was very small  & the nation wasn't wasn't half full of Idiots that think there entitled.

Sep 20, 2012 3:09PM
2 unpaid wars, unfunded drug program, cut taxes, then cut taxes during wars he started, really great economics, and Romney wants to comtinue these practices, come on, why would anyone want to go back to the same things that got us in this mess to begin with..not me, not people with any common sense, why vote for someone that is going to hurt the middle class and poor, to insure the rich get richer..1% currently control more wealth than the 99 %, now where is all that trickle down economica..it trickled down to the Bahamas, and other off shore tax havens..
Sep 20, 2012 3:09PM
Four simple questions.
  1- Back in 1961 people of color were called " Negroes". So how can the Obama "birth certificate" state he is "African American" when the term wasn't even used at that time?
 2- The birth certificate that the white house released lists Obama,s birth as august 4, 1961 & lists Barack Hussein Obama as his father. No big deal,right? At the time of Obama,s birth, it also shows that his father is aged 25 years old, and that Obama,s father was born in " Kenya , East Africa ". This wouldn't seem like anything of concern, except the fact that Kenya did not even exist until 1963, two years after Obama,s birth, and 27 years after his fathers birth. How could Obama's father have been born in a country that did not yet exist? Up and until Kenya was formed in 1963, it was known as the " British East Africa Protectorate".
 3- On the birth certificate released by the white house, the listed place of birth is "Kapi'olani Maternity & Gynecological Hospital". This cannot be, because the hospital's in question in 1961 were called "KauiKeolani Childrens Hospital" and "Kapi'olani Maternity Home",respectively. The name did not change to Kapi'olani Maternity & Gynecological Hospital until 1978, when these two hospitals merged. How can this particular name of the hospital be on a birth certificate dated 1961 if this name had not yet been applied to it until 1978?
 4- Perhaps a clue comes from Obama's book on his father. He states how proud he is of his father fighting in WW 2 . I'm not a math genius, so i may need some help from you. Obama's birth certificated says his father was 25 in 1961. That puts his fathers date of birth approximately 1936. WW 2 was basically between 1939 and 1945. Jut how many 3 year olds fight in wars? Does that mean that Obama is a liar, or simply chooses to alter the facts to satisfy his imagination or political purposes( still qualifies as a liar) ?   WAKE UP AMERICA!!!!!!
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