After winning big in Florida last night, Mitt Romney promptly stepped in it today. Appearing on CNN, the frontrunner candidly admitted, “I’m not concerned about the very poor, we have a safety net there.” When questioned on that statement, Romney kept his composure, but his clarification did not sound any less tone-deaf than his original remark. Is he out of touch?
Polling data suggests that Romney’s sentiments may not actually be too far from the mainstream. The Pew Research Center for People and the Press regularly polls Americans on their top policy priorities. In 2011, just 52 percent of respondents ranked “dealing with the problems of the poor and needy” as “a top priority.” That number seems to go down during recessions: It has been fairly stable since 2008, and though it peaked at 63 percent in 2001, it fell sharply to 44 percent the next year before recovering in the mid-2000s. It will come as no surprise that Romney’s position is less of an outlier in his own party: In 2011, 48 percent of independents and 66 percent of Democrats ranked the issue as a top priority, but only 40 percent of Republicans felt the same way.