Voters Now Say Obama Better for Their Money

Americans shift in favor of the president in the wake of positive economic numbers.

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More voters now say they believe that President Barack Obama would be better for their own personal financial situation than Republican candidate Mitt Romney, according to a new survey from Almost 3 in 10 respondents said Obama would improve their finances, compared to 2 in 10 who said Romney would give their money a boost. Back in June, voters were evenly split between the two candidates, in terms of who would help their finances the most.

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That shift, explains senior banking analyst Claes Bell, is likely caused by the recent positive economic news. “We’ve seen significant improvement on economic fundamentals—the good unemployment report earlier this month, retail sales improved, and consumer confidence is up, so Americans might be starting to feel more economic improvement,” he says.

Respondents’ perception of their own financial well-being appears to play a big role in which presidential candidate they prefer. Among those who said they were better off than they were a year ago, 45 percent said an Obama win would help them financially, compared to 9 percent for Romney. But among those who said they were doing worse today than a year ago, 35 percent said they would be better off under Romney, compared to 18 percent for Obama.

“Those doing well want to stick with the incumbent, while those who are not are willing to go with the challenger,” says Bell. A previous survey found that Obama supporters tend to be more optimistic about the economy, and Romney supporters more pessimistic.

Personal finances will likely play a big role in how Americans vote at the ballot box. The survey found that 62 percent of Americans consider their personal finances an “important factor” in their vote, an 11 percent called it the “single most important factor.” Still, 45 percent say it doesn’t much matter who wins in terms of the impact on their money. The survey, which was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, was taken after the first presidential debate on October 3.

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With several weeks still to go before Election Day, voters could shift again. “More people are going to come off the fence … the movement of the economy is still fluid,” says Bell. “The campaigns might want to take pains to explain to people what they are planning to do to help individual Americans with one of the toughest economies in a long time,” he adds.

For those trying to conduct that analysis for themselves, American Enterprise Institute’s Desmond Lachman explains that in general, Romney supports lowering taxes and reducing federal spending, with the goal of stimulating business growth. Obama, meanwhile, has been a strong supporter of federal programs such as health insurance coverage, social services, student loan support, and unemployment benefits, along with raising taxes for higher-income Americans. Currently, a handful of tax cuts are set to expire at the end of the year unless Congress acts.

On the economic policy front, Romney has said that he would replace Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, which could mean a shift in Federal Reserve policies. Under the Obama administration, the Fed has continued to keep interest rates low and engaged in other methods of buoying the economy, including buying mortgage-backed securities.

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Still, Lachman notes that as president, both men would need to work with Congress to pass any legislation, which means neither can guarantee that their policies will be implemented.