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Obama Backers More Nuanced Than '47 Percent' — And So Are Romney's

Mitt Romney has gotten into political hot water for asserting that "47 percent of the people" favor President Obama because they are "dependent upon government."

But while 47 percent or more Americans support Obama in the November election and roughly 47 percent pay no net federal income taxes, they aren't the same 47 percent.

"A significant number of voters for both candidates are people who are not paying taxes," says Scott Keeter, a pollster with the Pew Research Center. "It's not at all the case that Obama's supporters don't and Romney's supporters do."

It's already been widely pointed out that a good deal of Romney's support comes from seniors who aren't paying federal income taxes. But Obama does hold a big lead among lower-income voters — 56 to 37 percent, according to Gallup polling conducted over the past month.

"The people who are dependent on government assistance make up a far larger share of Obama's coalition than of Romney's," says Whit Ayres, a GOP consultant.

Part of that advantage is attributable to Obama's solid support among minorities, who tend to have lower incomes, on average, than whites. He has nearly universal backing among African-Americans and about two-thirds support from Hispanics.

But part of Obama's strength in both his presidential runs has been to wed support from ethnic minorities with that of certain segments of the white population, notably union members and college-educated professionals. This time around, he also holds a big lead among unmarried white women.

According to Gallup's figures, Obama and Romney are running even, with 47 percent each, among voters who make between $36,000 and $89,999 a year. Among those making more than $90,000, Romney has just a 5 percentage point advantage (50 percent to 45 percent).

"Obama draws considerable strength from people in high socioeconomic status categories," says Karlyn Bowman, a polling expert at the American Enterprise Institute.

But if the economic circumstances of Obama's coalition is more mixed than Romney's remarks suggest, there are differences in how their supporters view the economy.

New polling from both Pew and Gallup shows that Democrats are much more positive about the economy than Republicans.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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