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Are Romney's '47 percent' comments beginning to move the polls? (+video)

At first glance, the latest polls don't look good for GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. A Gallup survey shows his '47 percent' remarks cost him some support among independent voters. But it's weeks until the election, and that effect may not persist.

By Staff writer / September 20, 2012

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney participates in a Univision 'Meet the Candidates' forum with Jorge Ramos and Maria Elena Salinas in Coral Gables, Fla., Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012.

Charles Dharapak/AP


Mitt Romney’s fundraiser comment that he doesn’t worry about the 47 percent of Americans who pay no income taxes, and that those people are dependent on government and consider themselves “victims,” has been Topic 1 in US politics for days now. Polls are now starting to appear that take these words into account, and at first glance they don’t look good for the GOP standard-bearer.

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Washington Editor

Peter Grier is The Christian Science Monitor's Washington editor. In this capacity, he helps direct coverage for the paper on most news events in the nation's capital.

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Monitor correspondent Liz Marlantes documents recent gaffes by politicians on the campaign trail.

For instance, according to a just-released USA Today/Gallup survey 36 percent of respondents who knew about the flap said Mr. Romney’s comment makes them less likely to vote for him. Twenty percent said it made them more likely to vote for him, while 46 percent said it made no difference.

“The immediate impact of Romney’s comments appears to be more negative than positive, which suggests that the comments could hurt Romney’s ultimate chances of winning the election,” writes Gallup editor Frank Newport.

But Mr. Newport added that the ultimate effect of the comment remains unclear, in part because today’s polarized media outlets are spinning the comments in very different ways. It’s possible, too, that Romney won’t lose as many votes over this issue as Gallup’s initial numbers imply.

One reason is that polls that ask whether particular things make someone more or less likely to do something aren’t that definitive. What’s “more”? What’s “less”? Ten percent more? Twenty percent less? What the question really measures is whether respondents believe the item in question is positive or negative.

And that response, in turn, is colored by what respondents were already leaning toward doing. You can see this in the details of Gallup’s numbers. The poll finds that 68 percent of Democrats say they’re less likely to vote for Romney due to the “47 percent” stuff, for instance. But pretty much all those people weren’t going to vote for him anyway.

Only 4 percent of Republicans said the comment would make them less likely to pull the lever for the former Massachusetts governor. Forty-four percent said it make them more likely to vote for him. But again, most of those Republicans were going to vote for their party’s nominee in any case.

The results for independents were arguably more indicative. Of these self-described swing voters, 53 percent said Romney’s recent words made no difference. Twenty-nine percent said they made them less likely to vote GOP, while 15 percent said it made them more likely.


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