- Associated Press - Thursday, September 20, 2012

WASHINGTON (AP) — Just which 47 percent of Americans was Mitt Romney was talking about? It’s hard to say. He lumped together three different ways of sorting people in what he’s called less-than-elegant remarks.

Each of those three groups — likely Obama voters, people who get federal benefits and people who don’t pay federal income taxes — contains just under half of all Americans, in the neighborhood of 47 percent at a given moment. There’s some overlap, but the three groups are quite distinct.

Confusingly, Romney spoke as if they’re made up of the same batch of Americans.

A look at the three groups:

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OBAMA VOTERS

What Romney said: “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what.”

He’s right on the nose, according to the latest Associated Press-GfK poll: Forty-seven percent of likely voters say they support Obama. And 46 percent say they support Romney, essentially a tie. This number fluctuates from poll to poll and week to week and could shift substantially before Election Day.

Who they are:

—Most are employed: Sixty-two percent of the Obama voters work, including the 10 percent working only part time. A fourth are retired. Five percent say they’re temporarily unemployed.

—Most earn higher-than-average wages. Fifty-six percent have household incomes above the U.S. median of $50,000. Just 16 percent have incomes below $30,000, and about the same share (20 percent) have incomes of $100,000 or more.

—They’re all ages but skew younger than Romney’s voters: Twenty percent are senior citizens and 12 percent are under age 30.

—They’re more educated than the overall population: Forty-three percent boast four-year college degrees or above; 21 percent topped out with a high school diploma.

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PEOPLE WHO GET FEDERAL BENEFITS

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