That’s the Google trend graph of searches for 47%. You can see that it peaked around September 17th, when the infamous Romney video came out and again during the debate last Wednesday. That’s a bit surprising because Obama didn’t mention the 47% during the debate. (Arguably, Obama did not mention a lot of things during the debate.) Anyway, Romney now says that this remark was a mistake. He’s right, it was a mistake, but it was more than a “political” or campaigning mistake. To refresh your memory, here’s what Romney said:
“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what […] There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”
Ok, first, as Andrew Gelman points out “there’s a correlation between voting for Obama and being on government benefits, but the correlation is far from 100%”.
More importantly however, is that many people who should be offended by the comment and vote for Obama – the “takers” – don’t even know they’re takers. Take a look at this:
That’s from Suzanne Mettler. It’s the percentage of people receiving each type of government assistance and answering later in a survey that they have never used government assistance. This has important implications for attitudes towards the role of government in society. It’s also important to keep in mind even if we live outside the US. Mettler’s argument is that this is the consequence of an increase in government policies that “operate through indirect means such as tax breaks to households or payments to private actors who provide services.” As Canadians we are not immune to these kinds of policies, especially when the government in power is trying to sell an image of “small” government.
For more on this check out this New York Times piece by political scientists John Sides and Mettler herself.