A controversial video revealing Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney describing President Obama’s supporters as “dependent on government” could hurt his chances in the 2012 election, according to several professors in Emory’s department of political science.
The video, which has gone viral since its release on Mother Jones magazine’s website last Tuesday, reveals Romney saying Obama’s supporters “believe they are entitled to health care, food and housing.”
Romney made these statements during a private, closed-door campaign event for 30 major donors who have contributed significantly to efforts for his election, according to a Sept. 18 Huffington Post article.
James Carter IV initially found the video on YouTube before leaking it.
He tracked the video’s original source using Twitter and submitted it to Mother Jones, according to recent reports by MSNBC.
Carter is a self-proclaimed “partisan Democrat” who has noted that his motivation in leaking the video was to help candidates in the Democratic Party become elected.
He admitted to several media sources that he was particularly inspired to publicize the video because of Romney’s frequent criticisms of the his grandfather, former President Jimmy Carter.
According to Carter, Romney has publicly expressed his disapproval of certain policy decisions the former president made while in office.
The video is blurry and occasionally the scenes become blacked out in order to conceal the location of the fundraiser.
Romney’s comments in the video also included what many people have felt to be generalizations about the American population.
He discussed the “47 percent of America that will vote for the president no matter what … 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the 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 – that that’s an entitlement.”
Later in the video, Romney added, “These are people who pay no income tax … [My] job is not to worry about those people.”
Since the video’s release, Romney has publicly noted that his remarks were not “elegantly stated” and were made “on the cuff.” He said, however, that they were intended to target independents who had not committed to either candidate.
Alben W. Barkley Professor of Political Science Alan Abramowitz said the video has drawn such great attention because it shows Romney speaking only to a private group of donors rather than to the American public.
“It shows what he really thinks,” Abramowitz said. “The fact that he was discussing this with a group of ‘fat cats’ plays into the idea that he is an elitist.”
According to Abramowitz, much of this 47 percent to whom he is referring typically votes Republican, making Romney’s statements even more controversial and possibly detrimental to his campaign.
Forty-seven percent of Americans do not, in fact, pay income taxes according to current figures from Reuters.
However, more than half of the people in that group have an income of under $16,812 a year, while 44 percent include the elderly who receive certain tax benefits.
Another 30 percent of this population group consist of families who receive tax credits for children or because their incomes are considered inadequate.
Many of these low-income families spend the majority of their income on items such as food and housing.
A third of this “47 percent” are middle-class families with incomes between $33,542 and $59,486, and a “small, but significant number” are upper-class families earning between $211,000 and $2.2 million a year.
Andra Gillespie, an associate professor in the political science department, predicted that the video could dampen Romney’s support from independents and undecided voters.
Gillespie said that while these groups may not necessarily vote for Obama during the election, they will now be far less enthusiastic about voting for Romney or may simply not vote at all.
“Romney’s statement looked bad to voters who consider food and housing necessities,” she said. “He now looks like a combination of Marie Antoinette and Scrooge.”
Abramowitz agreed, adding that some voters seem angry at being categorized as what she described to be “freeloaders” – people who ask for something without giving back in return – and will now be more motivated to vote for Obama, lessening Romney’s chances of winning the presidency.
Many Emory students have also expressed anger with Romney’s statements.
A College junior who wished to remain anonymous said that he is undecided as to who he is voting for in November.
Although the video didn’t completely convince him to vote for Obama, it has lessened the chances of him voting for Romney.
“I think it says a lot that he would announce at a closed event for wealthier people that probably agree with him,” the Colleg junior commented. “I think less of him as a candidate, but it’s hard to tell how much of this scandal is real and how much is just typical politics.”
College freshman Julia Howard, who was not planning on voting in November because of her dislike for both candidates, said she finds Romney’s statements “ridiculous.”
“I don’t think that the number 47 percent makes a lot of sense in context,” she said. “Saying he isn’t representative for 47 percent of the country who don’t pay income taxes and that he can’t help them seems a little unrealistic and rude.”
Romney released his own 2010 tax returns – which some opponents have asked him to publicize during the past few weeks of the presidential race – two days after the video began to circulate.
He may have chosen to do so due to a slight drop in election polls following the video’s release, analysts say.
While his tax returns proved that he does indeed pay taxes, the returns also indicate that Romney has paid a lower tax rate than the average American and that he took advantage of certain tax loopholes, according to Gillespie.
“His tax returns reinforce the idea that he is out of touch with the average American and extremely elite,” she said.
During this week, both candidates will be campaigning in Ohio, a battleground state whose electoral votes could influence the outcome of the election.
Romney plans to focus the remainder of his campaign efforts on criticizing Obama’s failure to create jobs, according to Reuters.
Romney currently stands six percentage points behind Obama in Ohio.
– By Anusha Ravi