A poll released by The New York Times and CBS News today shows that more than 80% of Americans support fundamental change or a complete overhaul of the way political campaigns are funded. The survey found majorities of both Republicans and Democrats favor strong campaign finance reforms, including:
- 77% of Americans support limiting campaign contributions
- 78% support limiting the political spending of “independent” groups, such as Super PACs and politically active nonprofits
- 75% support disclosing the identity of donors to independent political groups
- 54% say that political money is NOT free speech protected by the First Amendment
The most encouraging thing about the numbers is that Republicans and Democrats are in fundamental agreement about the problem. But despite this bipartisan consensus, Republicans in Congress continue to block meaningful reform, including a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and bills that would require “dark money” groups to disclose their donors.
The survey results offer an important hint about why that’s happening. Nearly six in 10 respondents said they’re pessimistic about the chances for improving the way campaigns are funded. Because they see little hope for change, they’re not demanding it.
It’s up to us to turn those pessimists into optimists. One way we’re trying is to highlight the meaningful reforms moving ahead with bipartisan support at the state level. Within the past year, the Montana legislature passed a strong campaign finance disclosure bill, with bipartisan support. In Maryland, Republican Governor Larry Hogan, elected under a public financing system, pushed a bill to make that system stronger. In Missouri, a Republican state senator introduced a bill this year that would reestablish contribution limits and strengthen disclosure rules. In Maine, a Republican state senator is working with Democrats to strengthen the state’s clean elections system. And in Oregon, new Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, is pushing a state constitutional amendment that would authorize the legislature to limit campaign spending.
Additionally, 16 state legislatures have called for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, many with bipartisan support.
The point is that reform is possible when voters make themselves heard. In a time of great economic and political inequality, this new poll shows that the overwhelming majority of Americans of both parties agree on one of the most important issues facing our country: rebuilding our campaign finance system so everyday voters’ have an equal voice as the biggest donors and wealthiest Americans. The next step is making sure your representative in Congress knows where you stand, and then, most importantly, vote!
Office: Common Cause National
Issues: Money in Politics