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Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Bartels Presents Inequality as a Political Issue in the 2012 Election Today at NYU

BartelsLarry M. Bartels (Vanderbilt University, Department of Political Science) presents The Class War Gets Personal: Inequality as a Political Issue in the 2012 Election at NYU today as part of its Colloquium Series on Tax Policy and Public Finance convened by Daniel Shaviro (NYU) and William Gale (Tax Policy Center; visiting at NYU):

The issue of inequality contributed significantly to Barack Obama’s reelection in 2012; I estimate that the net effect of the issue was to increase his vote share by two or three percentage points, and by about one percentage point in battleground states. However, that advantage had little to do with public support for more progressive tax policy or broad concerns about the social and political ramifications of economic inequality; indeed, those considerations seem to have cost Obama more votes than they won him. Rather, Obama benefited specifically and substantially from a widespread perception that Mitt Romney cared more about the wealthy than about the poor. Although these perceptions intensified somewhat over the course of the campaign, they were already well established in January, before the Republican primary season, Obama’s negative ad blitz focusing on Romney’s career at Bain Capital and his offshore wealth and secret tax returns, and Romney’s own much-publicized remark that “my job is not to worry about” the 47 percent of Americans who pay no income tax. If this was a “class war,” it was a circumstantial battle reflecting the background and image of the Republican nominee—not a frontal assault by the American electorate on “the defining issue of our time.”

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Occupy Wall Street was supposed to inflate this issue for the election, but the demonstrators wore out their welcome and may have had the opposite effect. Another case of unintended consequences.

Posted by: AMTbuff | Apr 23, 2013 6:47:19 PM