Why Campaign Finance Reform Is Hard

by John Sides on August 2, 2012 · 3 comments

in Campaigns and elections

From a new Washington Post-Pew poll:

So, 65% have heard little or nothing about campaign spending by outside groups, 75% think the effect of this spending will be neutral or have no opinion about its effect, 69% do not think it will help one candidate more than the other or have no opinion about this, and 60% cannot identify what a super-PAC is.

These sorts of findings are one reason why, despite Americans’ distaste for money in politics, the public rarely provides much impetus for campaign finance reform.

{ 3 comments }

RobC August 2, 2012 at 10:38 am

As to the second question, I’d expect that most quantitatively oriented political scientists would answer that they think the main effect of increased spending by outside groups would be neutral or that they don’t have enough information yet to form an opinion–the same answers given by three-quarters of the public. As to the third question, I’d expect those political scientists to say either that the increased spending by outside groups would not help one candidate more than the other or that they don’t have enough information yet to form an opinion–the same answers given by more than two-thirds of the public. Pretty smart, the public.

John Sides August 2, 2012 at 11:46 am

RobC: I’d say the second question is normative, not empirical. I don’t really know whether more information is needed to answer it, or what political scientists would say. As to the third question, I think “no opinion” is a reasonable answer. It seems like the GOP-aligned groups will have more money than the Dem-aligned groups, but whether the GOP spending will really help — in the sense of “win more votes” — is certainly an open question.

Of course, whether the public is “smart” is tangential to my point.

b-psycho August 2, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Sometimes I see results like this and wonder how they’re even possible. Really, to have heard *nothing* about it you’d have to basically react to the beginning of any story about it by sticking your head in the ground until you get a signal it has passed.

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