Poll: 47% video hurts Romney with independents
WASHINGTON -- The secretly recorded video of Mitt Romney dissecting the American electorate at a high-priced fund-raiser bolsters him among Republicans but makes almost a third of independents less likely to vote for him, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds.
The survey, taken Tuesday, finds just over half of independents say the video won't make a difference in their vote. Those who say it will have an effect by 2-1, 29%-15%, say it makes them less likely rather than more likely to support the GOP presidential nominee.
Predictably, two-thirds of Democrats say the video makes them less likely to support Romney -- very few Democrats are on his side in any case -- while 44% of Republicans say it makes them more likely to back him.
The Obama campaign unveiled an Internet video with people reacting -- negatively -- to the comments. Michigan Democrats held a conference call with reporters with state party Chairman Mark Brewer saying, "It's hard, if not impossible, to be president of the United States if you write off half" the people.
The Romney campaign countered with a statement that if elected, Romney will "permanently lower individual tax rates by 20% across the board."
For some, the comments were still difficult to take.
Daniel Pier, 54, of Warren caught the comments on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Tuesday. He had been undecided and was leaning toward Romney. Now, he's moved toward Obama. Pier is on Social Security disability for a bad heart.
"I'm hearing him (Romney) about entitlements. ... We're depending on the government. I couldn't live unless we collected that," he said. "Every valve in my heart is bad.
"I thought he was a good guy, but every time he opens his mouth it's like he's pushing me further and further away."
Romney's comments have a basis in fact: The Tax Policy Center in Washington, D.C. -- a joint venture of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution -- reported that 46.4% of earners did not pay federal income tax in 2011. (As has been widely reported, however, more than half of those who don't pay federal income taxes still pay federal payroll taxes, which include those for Social Security and Medicare.)
But linking those non-filers to specific voters is treacherous.
As the Free Press reported last year, the number and percentage of non-filers in higher-income brackets has increased in recent decades because of certain tax breaks, but low-income individuals and families and retirees account for most of the non-filers. And though Obama does better than Romney with low-income voters, a Gallup poll released Tuesday said Romney still gets about a third of the vote among those with household incomes less than $24,000 a year.
He also enjoys an advantage over Obama with older voters.
Vincent Hutchings, a political science professor at the University of Michigan, said Romney's words are true, up to a point: A large portion of voters will back Obama and not Romney because of Obama's politics. But, he said, some voters are going to react negatively to Romney characterizing "those people as being motivated by something other than virtuous incentives," that they are "aligned with Obama because they're on the government dole."
"It looks bad. He knows it looks bad," Hutchings said. "It's one thing to say a lot of people are committed to my opponent. It's another thing to say those people are a bunch of leeches."
Most recent polls have shown Obama with a slim lead. In Michigan, a Free Press/WXYZ-TV poll a week ago showed Obama ahead of Romney by 10 percentage points.
Republican consultant John Truscott in Lansing said he thinks the story is being spun "in a way that's unfortunate," believing that it should be used to spotlight a government on a fiscally unsustainable path.
Some did take it in that spirit. In Hesperia, northwest of Grand Rapids, 67-year-old Bill Myers said Romney's remarks moved him off the fence and now he's more supportive of the Republican.
"Somebody's standing up and saying the truth," Myers said. "I don't like the way he said it, but I think it's the truth that 40% of Americans want something for nothing. We live in an entitlement society."
He acknowledged that if someone wanted to tinker with his Medicare, he wouldn't be happy about it. But the conversation must be had, he said.
"We're going to need to take a tough stand," he said. "Somebody's going to have to give up something. If it's me, so be it."