2012 Election: Compare the Candidates on Issues

The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.

By Grace Nasri

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- With five viable candidates still in the running just nine months before election day on Nov. 6, many voters are still weighing whether to support the Democratic incumbent President Barack Obama or one of his four remaining Republican opponents: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich , Texas Rep. Ron Paul , former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney or former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum .

The American public differs greatly in terms of what issues sway their votes. Some voters focus on the candidates' accomplishments during previous jobs in the private or public sector. Others find relevance in personal attributes like age or religion: Ron Paul, 76, Baptist; Newt Gingrich, 68, Roman Catholic; Mitt Romney, 64, Mormon; Rick Santorum, 53, Roman Catholic; Barack Obama, 50, Protestant.

Some see education as an important indicator and weigh in factors like highest degree obtained: Gingrich: PhD Modern European History, Tulane University; Obama: J.D., Harvard Law School; Paul: M.D., Duke University Medical Center; Romney: J.D. Harvard Law School and M.B.A., Harvard Business School; Santorum: M.B.A, University of Pittsburgh and J.D., Dickinson School of Law.

As election day nears, some undecided Americans begin to put weight on the candidates' standings in the polls or how much money they have raised .

But despite all these background factors, most Americans base their voting on the candidates' positions on issues. Below is a glimpse of some issues that have come up during Campaign 2012 and the candidates' positions.

Such positions are not always easy to paraphrase, because the positions are nuanced or complex or evolving or simply unclear, so be sure to check the candidates' campaign websites: Newt Gingrich , Barack Obama , Ron Paul , Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.

Abortion

"Pro Life" - Gingrich, Paul, Romney, Santorum.

"Pro Choice" - Obama

Climate Change

Believes that human activity has brought about climate change: Obama, Paul

Does not believe humans have caused climate change: Santorum

Believes the science is unsettled: Gingrich , Romney

Health Care, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

Repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: Gingrich , Paul, Romney, Santorum

Uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: Obama

Immigration

Gingrich acknowledges the impracticality of deporting the 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. and considers temporary worker program.

Obama advocates increasing border security, upholding the DREAM Act. He supports immigrant amnesty.

Paul wants to alter 14th Amendment of Constitution to eradicate alien's birthright citizenship. He opposes immigrant amnesty.

Romney opposes resident college tuition and driver's licenses for illegal immigrants, wants to eliminate chain reaction of families immigrating to join their family member who is a citizen, and opposes immigrant amnesty. Favors U.S.-Mexico boarder fence.

Santorum wants to build fence along the Mexican border to increase security and opposes immigrant amnesty.

Jobs and the Economy

Gingrich's plan calls for a series of tax cuts, including a move "towards an optional flat tax of 15%," a repeal of regulations on the financial industry, and the replacement of the Environmental Protection Agency "with an Environmental Solutions Agency that works collaboratively with local government and industry to achieve better results."

Obama emphasizes a track record that includes the creation of 3.7 million private sector jobs over the past 23 months, trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama, which are increasing exports, and a focus on incentives for small business and entrepreneurs, such as investments in clean energy technologies to increase high-tech manufacturing.

Paul advocates the elimination of almost all federal regulation and getting rid of the Federal Reserve. He also calls for a return to the gold standard.

Romney's plan calls for tax cuts, less regulation, a balanced budget, and more trade deals with other nations. Romney proposes replacing jobless benefits with unemployment savings accounts. He wants to change the labor laws so that they no longer "tilt the playing field toward organized labor."

Santorum's plan emphasizes the reduction of regulations, the elimination of corporate taxes for manufacturers, and an increase in drilling for oil and gas.

Same-Sex Marriage

Approve Same-Sex Marriage: Obama

Ban Same-Sex Marriage: Gingrich, Romney, Santorum

Let States Decide: Paul

Stem-Cell Research

Gingrich: Supports stem cell research but is against using cells harvested from aborted fetuses.

Obama: Supports stem cell research.

Paul: Thinks states should decide.

Romney: Supports stem cell research but is against cloning or embryo farming.

Santorum: Against stem cell research.

For those still undecided voters, compare all five presidential candidates on the issues.
Grace Nasri is managing editor of FindTheBest, an unbiased, data-driven comparison engine.