Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems

A New York Times poll shows Americans of both parties agree money has too much influence on politics

Americans Of Both Parties Agree Money Has Too Much Influence On Politics

Regardless of political party, gender, and socio-economic status, Americans can agree on one thing: there is too much money in politics. A New York Times/CBS News poll released today found overwhelming bipartisan support for limiting the influence of money in American politics. While a large majority of voters voiced opposition to the unrestricted money in elections since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, most Americans also feel pessimistic about the potential to solve the problem. But that shouldn’t be the case.

Here are a few key findings from the poll:

  • More than 8 in 10 of Americans believe that there is too much money in American political campaigns. According to the poll, 84 percent of adults—including 90 percent of Democrats and 80 percent of Republicans—think that money has too much influence in American political campaigns. Even the richest Americans agreed: 85 percent of adults making $100,000 or more believe money has too much influence in the election process.
  • More than three-fourths of people support limiting individual campaign contributions. The poll found that 77 percent of adults favor limiting the amount of money individuals can contribute to political campaigns. Eighty percent of Democrats, 71 percent of Republicans, and 76 percent of Independents favor contribution limits.
  • Two-thirds of Americans think the wealthy have more influence than everyone else. According to the poll, 66 percent of adults—including 73 percent of Democrats and 55 percent of Republicans—believe that wealthy Americans have more of a chance to influence the elections process than other Americans.
  • Almost 8 in 10 of Americans think campaign spending by outside groups should be limited. The poll found that 78 percent of adults—including 85 percent of Democrats and 73 percent of Republicans—think that spending by groups not affiliated with a candidate should be limited by law.
  • Three quarters of people think outside groups should be required to publicly disclose their contributors. According to the poll 75 percent of adults believe that groups not affiliated with a candidate that spend money during political campaigns should be required to publicly disclose their contributors. Democrats and Republicans agree on this issue—76 percent of adults from each party believe that contributors to outside groups should be required to publicly disclose their contributors.
  • More than half of Americans are pessimistic that campaign finance laws will be improved. Nearly six in ten (58 percent) adults said they are pessimistic that changes will be made to improve the way political campaigns are funded.

Though campaign finance itself only ranks as a top issue facing our country for less than one percent of Americans, the reality that most see it is unattainable is only part of the story. Campaign finance reform is part of the solution for the broader issue of unlimited money in our politics and the reality of politicians serving only the needs of the wealthy few instead of all of us. Many reporters used today’s poll to argue voters don’t make decisions based on campaign finance, but with trust in government dropping it is very likely that fewer people choose to engage with the political process because of this imbalance. That is bad for our democracy and only serves to widen the gap, meaning more Americans must make their voices heard.

There are meaningful steps we can take. Most immediately, President Obama can take executive action to address money in politics by, for example, mandating further disclosure of political spending by federal contractors. And as Adam Smith at the campaign finance reform group Every Voice points out, Maine, Montana, Seattle, and Montgomery County are all examples of places where politicians and citizens are already making positive change to our campaign finance laws. Others are organizing to overturn the Citizens United decision. As Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin notes, Americans have used the amendment process to overturn the Supreme Court six times before.

BOTTOM LINE: Americans of all political persuasions, genders, and income levels agree that our campaign finance system is broken. But in order to make progress, rather than concentrating on the negative impact money has on our political process, we need to focus on meaningful solutions to the problem.

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