On Sept. 17, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney made headlines when a recording emerged of him saying, “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 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. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what … These are people who pay no income tax … [My] job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
47 percent of all undergraduates received federal student aid in the 2007 and 2008 school years at an average of $6,600 per student, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The threshold at which a single person with no children starts paying income tax is $13,401, according to the Tax Policy Center, a collaboration between the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution. These figures tell us most college students are firmly within the 47 percent of Obama supporters who Romney believes his “job is not to worry about.”
But college students’ problem with Romney’s remarks, which he called “off-the-cuff” and “inelegantly stated,” was not just that the 47 percent disenfranchised many college students. They revealed the authentic Romney: a man not yet a White House occupant, but already planning to downsize the number of Americans he considers his responsibility. Both Romney and President Barack Obama are reserved, cautious presences, waiting before they speak and slow to reveal. This cautiousness means when either of these candidates inadvertently reveal true feelings, as Romney did, such moments make up a much larger percentage of college students’ perception of who the best man really is.