Mitt Romney will probably get 95 electoral votes from ‘moocher’ states. Obama will probably get 5.

September 18, 2012

Mitt Romney's comments on the 47 percent of Americans who make too little to pay income tax and "will vote for this president no matter what" are causing him some political problems this morning. But could they cause him any electoral problems? Is he really insulting anyone who would already be willing to vote for him?

Actually, yes. The Tax Foundation put out this helpful map of the states with the highest and lowest percentage of people who don't pay income taxes. The biggest non-paying states are -- except Florida and New Mexico -- solid red states:


Source: Tax Foundation

 

Three of the states with the lowest number of non-payers are solidly conservative: Alaska, North Dakota and Wyoming. Two, New Hampshire and Virginia, are swing states. All the rest are solidly Democratic, including half of New England. All told, Obama gets 50 electoral votes from the "maker" states to Romney's 9 — 17 are tossups — while Romney gets 96 electoral votes from the "taker" states to Obama's 5, with 29 as tossups.

Now, granted, many of the non-payers in red states vote Democratic. As Columbia's Andrew Gelman and others have shown, those making less are likelier to vote Democratic regardless of whether they live in a red or blue state. But in terms of the electoral college, many of the states Romney is taking for granted, and some of the states he's working hardest to win, have the highest populations of "takers" he derided as part of the Democrats' base.

Update: A few readers wrote in noting that the percentages in the map are for non-payers, not non-filers. Very true! Apologies for the error; the post is corrected.

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Ezra Klein · September 18, 2012