Majority of Americans Want Money Out of Politics

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A survey conducted in July found that a majority of Americans from across the political spectrum oppose the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that opened the floodgates to endless campaign spending. And that was before the 2014 elections became the most expensive midterm elections ever, with at least $3.7 billion spent on Congressional races (that doesn’t count state, local and judicial elections).

The research, commissioned by Public Citizen, surveyed likely 2014 voters from the two main political parties, as well as independents.

As the chart below shows, 61 percent of those polled oppose Citizens United (with 51 percent strongly opposed), the Supreme Court decision that allows corporations and labor unions to spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns. Democrats, Republicans and independents show very similar opposition rates at 61, 58 and 62 percent, respectively. Also, special interest lobbying and election spending was viewed especially negatively, with 76 percent of Democrats, 79 percent of Republicans and 74 percent of independents having an unfavorable opinion of its impact on our politics.

(Chart: Public Citizen, 2014)

(Chart: Public Citizen, 2014)


When asked how important the issue of reducing the influence of money in politics and elections is, 78 percent of Americans said that it’s an important issue. The chart below shows the mean, or average, rating on a 0-10 scale, with 10 being the most important.

(Chart: Public Citizen, 2014)

(Chart: Public Citizen, 2014)


In terms of financing elections, 60 percent of voters (65 percent of Democrats, 53 percent of Republicans and 61 percent of independents) think America needs either major changes or a complete overhaul of our campaign finance laws. Below, you can see that only seven percent don’t think any changes are needed.

(Chart: Public Citizen, 2014)

(Chart: Public Citizen, 2014)


Over half of voters are in favor of a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and related campaign finance decisions. Sixty-two percent of Democrats, 54 percent of Republicans and half of independents said they favor the amendment; only 25 percent of voters believe that the proposed amendment is an assault on the right to free speech. Some 62 percent of voters believe that the current election system allows the voices of a few to drown out the many using million-dollar microphones.

(Chart: Public Citizen, 2014)

(Chart: Public Citizen, 2014)


And perhaps a bit of good news for campaign reformers like Lawrence Lessig: The survey found that voters are ready to reward elected officials that support overturning Citizens United.

The poll was commissioned by Public Citizen and conducted by Lake Research Partners, a Democratic polling firm, and Chesapeake Beach Consulting, a Republican polling firm, using a live telephone survey of 800 likely voters between July 26 and July 29. The numbers of Democrats, Republicans and independents polled reflected the proportions of projected likely national 2014 voters from each of those parties. The poll’s margin of error was +/- 3.5 percent.

Karin Kamp is a multimedia journalist and producer. She has produced content for BillMoyers.com, NOW on PBS and WNYC public radio and worked as a reporter for Swiss Radio International. She also helped launch The Story Exchange, a site dedicated to women’s entrepreneurship.

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