What you get when you vote Barack Obama or Mitt Romney

Election briefing: where the two candidates stand on the key issues facing the United States today

LAST UPDATED AT 11:30 ON Tue 6 Nov 2012

The 2012 US presidential election has been one of the most sharply polarised in recent times, with Barack Obama and Mitt Romney apparently finding few issues on which they share any common ground.

So, what are Americans voting for when they plump for Obama or Romney today?

THE RECESSION
Obama:
With the US economy showing signs of recovery - GDP growth for the third quarter of 2012 was two per cent (compared to Britain's predicted 0 per cent across 2012) and unemployment has slipped beneath eight per cent - President Obama will continue his Keynesian policies of spending government money on infrastructure to create more jobs.

Romney: He favours less government intervention in the economy and pledges to cut regulation, balance the budget, repeal laws governing Wall Street which were imposed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and replace unemployment benefits with saving accounts.

TAXES
Obama: He wants to maintain tax cuts for those earning under $200,000, but force the wealthy to pay at least 30 per cent of their income. He favours cutting corporation tax from 35 to 28 per cent, but would eradicate some tax breaks that businesses benefit from.

Romney: His personal wealth is estimated at $250m and he has no plans to tax the rich. He wants to cut corporation tax to 25 per cent and also to get rid of other taxes on investments for all Americans earning less than $200,000.

FEDERAL SPENDING
Obama:
He plans to cut $4 trillion over the next ten years, slashing military spending by ending the US presence in Afghanistan, cut $32bn worth of subsidies to farmers over ten years and tackle inefficiencies in programmes like Medicare.

Romney: He plans to cut federal spending in his first four-year term by 4.3 per cent to 20 per cent. Cuts to foreign aid, the PBS public broadcaster and funding to family planning organisations have been signalled, and he plans to privatise the Amtrak rail network.

ISRAEL
Obama:
Both candidates strongly commit to the Jewish state, but Obama says that the surest route to security for Israel comes from achieving a lasting peace with its Middle Eastern neighbours. He also supports a resumption of aid to the Palestinians if they renounce terrorism.

Romney: He stirred up controversy in July by visiting Israel and declaring his support for an attack on Iran. He is the favoured candidate of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and has backed the security wall built by the Israelis around the Palestinian West Bank.

OTHER FOREIGN POLICY
Obama:
In addition to bringing troops home from Afghanistan, he will maintain diplomatic and economic pressure on Iran over its nuclear programme without ruling out the threat of military action. He plans to engage with China over its trade protectionism.

Romney: He would also withdraw troops by 2014 from Afghanistan but wouldn't negotiate with the Taliban. He's more aggressive on China, labelling them 'currency manipulators' for their trade policies.

DEFENCE
Obama:
Under his presidency, the US has increased its use of military drones. It will continue to do so, with the President saying they remove American troops from danger.

Romney: He has pledged to increase military spending and voiced support for aggressive interrogation techniques against terrorism suspects - some of which, such as waterboarding, are seen as torture.

ABORTION
Obama:
He supports the "fundamental constitutional right" to abortion and will cover the provision of free birth control for women in their workplace healthcare plans.

Romney: As a Mormon, he opposes the landmark Roe vs Wade Supreme Court ruling that made abortion legal in America and has said he believes it should be overturned. He will cut federal aid to groups such as Planned Parenthood, a provider of family planning services.

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE
Obama:
He came out in favour of gay marriage this year and indicated last year that the government would no longer enforce the Defence of Marriage Act, which legislates against equal rights for same-sex unions.

Romney: The Republican fiercely opposes gay marriage, and will ensure that the Defence of Marriage Act is rigorously upheld. He will seek to add an amendment to the Constitution that outlaws same-sex unions.

HEALTH CARE
Obama:
He introduced the Affordable Health Care Act – nicknamed Obamacare - to provide 30 million poor Americans with proper healthcare. The Supreme Court threw out a challenge that it was unconstutional.

Romney: Despite Obamacare being modelled on a system that Romney pioneered as governor of Massachusetts, the Republican will repeal the healthcare reforms if elected. He says health care should be left for states to decide, not the federal government.

GLOBAL WARMING
Obama:
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the president's belief that global warming is wreaking increasing havoc on the United States is looking prescient. He wants to spend tens of billions of dollars on alternative energy, and halve oil imports by 2020.

Romney: As Governor of Massachusetts, he had a closer position to the president. But under pressure from his party, he has expressed scepticism about the causes of global warming and plans to open up federally protected lands such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling.

GUN CONTROL
Obama
: He has made no moves as president to remove the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment, and has not passed stricter gun laws - indeed he signed off on an act allowing the carrying of concealed guns in national parks and on the Amtrak system.

Romney: He is a member of the National Rifle Association and won't support any anti-gun legislation. However, as Governor of Massachusetts he enacted laws including a ban on assault weapons and the enforcement of background checks. · 

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