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Who Are the 47 Percent?
Posted on October 18, 2012 by Linda Zukauskas

When it comes to family finances and wealth, who do teens and tweens identify as the 47 percent?

 

With the Presidential election only weeks away, Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney trend daily on news and social media, batting around all sorts of statistics. But one stat in particular has rocked this presidential race more than any other. In the now-infamous video of Mr. Romney speaking at a private fundraiser, he divided the country into the 47 percent “who are dependent upon government, who believe they are victims” and who “pay no income tax,”—and everybody else.

 

Political wonks had a feeding frenzy and political polls went berserk.  Debates broke out everywhere from coffee shops to college campuses—just who are the 47 percent? Many registered voters have hit upon an answer at this point. But what about those who aren’t yet able to cast a vote? What affect did the “47 percent” flare-up have on teens and tweens who are still formulating their political allegiances and opinions? Did they question whether their own family paid its income tax bill? Who do they believe the 47 percent to be? Ballooning Nest Eggs reporters took to the streets to get a quick take on their thinking.

 

Jordan, a high school junior in Manhattan, witnessed some of the first days of Occupy Wall Street and even protested with a large group in Union Square, trying to better understand what it all meant and how it tied in with the election. So when Romney’s 47-percent comment exploded in the media, Jordan says she wasn’t shocked or swayed; only disappointed in such a statement.

 

“I already felt like Mitt Romney was very biased in regards to upper class Americans,” says Jordan. “That’s who he’s catering his presidency bid towards, and it’s such a small percentage of Americans.”

 

Matt, a 12-year old in Montville, NJ, watched a clip of Mr. Romney’s comment on YouTube with his mom because he says he hasn’t really heard much about it in school and his friends don’t talk about it. “The 47 percent are Democrats,” he decides. “Democrats will always vote for a Democratic candidate no matter who is running so it doesn’t matter if those people won’t vote for Romney now.”  He adds, “I don’t know about who does and doesn’t pay income tax. What’s that got to do with politics anyway?”

 

Peter, a 17-year old from Woodbury, CT says Mr. Romney’s remark, “is too broad a generalization.  There are some people who have disabilities and just don’t have the physical ability to pay taxes.  I’m sure the number is much less for people who don’t pay because they don’t want to, aren’t smart enough, or don’t have the will power.  Probably 10% fall into that category.”

 

Peter estimates that 5-10 percent of the population relies on the government and those are the people he believes won’t change their opinions of the candidates because of that reliance. It won’t change his view, he says. “That’s the foundation of the Republican and Democrat parties.  The Republicans will help people but they believe in people supporting themselves. If everyone works for themselves, the country as a whole will be better.”

 

Jenna, a 16-year-old from Broomfield, CO, says she wasn’t fazed by Mr. Romney’s remark. “I can’t terribly disagree with it,” she says, adding that she believes a large amount of government spending goes to “a lot of people” on welfare. Jenna believes these people are the “47 percent” Romney referred to. “There are people who really need it and others who are taking advantage of the system,” the junior at Legacy High School says. She and her mother, a registered Democrat, reacted differently to Mr. Romney’s remarks. “I thought of it as a statement,” Jenna says, “not an accusation.”

 

If conversations about the 47 percent have sparked more political interest at the family dinner table, consider watching the debates together. For some clever tip, check out the NYT piece, http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/03/watching-the-presidential-debates—with-children/. If the kids are a bit younger, this Yahoo article,  http://voices.yahoo.com/presidential-debate-teach-concept-young-11806582.html?cat=25, might prove more helpful.

 

Have you asked your children who the 47 percent are? Join the discussion on Ballooning Nest EggsFacebook page.