Poll Shows Strong Bipartisan Support for ‘People’s Pledge’

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  • Aaron Scherb
– Agreement by Candidates to Curb Avalanche of Outside Spending

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new poll commissioned by Public Citizen shows strong bipartisan support among voters for the “People’s Pledge,” an agreement more candidates are entering to curb the influence of outside spending in their campaigns.

The poll, conducted by Lake Research Partners/Chesapeake Beach Consulting, also shows that nearly half of voters are more likely to vote for a candidate who signs such an agreement. Voters are particularly supportive of the pledge because it makes politicians more accountable to voters.

Under the pledge, candidates agree that if an outside group purchases any broadcast, print or online ad, the candidate the ad is designed to help will donate 50 percent of the ad’s cost to a charity of the opposing candidate’s choice.

Massachusetts attorney general candidates have agreed to discourage outside spending. U.S. Senate candidates in Alaska, Kentucky, Georgia and New Hampshire have proposed it. And in Rhode Island, gubernatorial candidates in the Democratic primary have agreed to it.

Lake Research Partners conducted the telephone survey of 800 likely voters between July 26 and July 29. They were roughly evenly split between Democrats, Republicans and independents. The poll’s margin of error is +/- 3.5 percent.

Public Citizen and Common Cause are jointly sending letters to general election candidates in contested races in all 50 states, urging them to enter into similar agreements to curb outside spending in their races.

“Outside money is corrosive to democracy, and this poll shows clearly that voters understand that,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “Outside money enables corporations and the wealthy to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens and makes elected officials more beholden than ever to the corporate interests that helped get them elected.”

”Political campaigns ought to focus on issues of importance to candidates and voters, not the narrow concerns of front groups and the anonymous big money investors and corporations that too often are behind them,” said Common Cause President Miles Rapoport. “The People’s Pledge is a commonsense step candidates can take to connect their campaigns to their constituents. Those who adopt it send a powerful message about their commitment to represent every citizen.”

“Outside money” is money spent on elections by groups not associated with candidates. This includes super PACs as well as trade associations and nonprofits set up to funnel money from corporations and wealthy donors. Some people and companies use outside groups that do not disclose donors to circumvent disclosure requirements for election spending. For hotly contested races like the race for U.S. Senate in Kentucky, much of the outside money comes from out of state.

In the poll, 68 percent of voters said they felt favorable or very favorable toward agreements like the People’s Pledge. A full 70 percent of Democrats, 64 percent of Republicans and 69 percent of independents said they favored such an agreement.

In addition, voters said they supported the pledge because it makes politicians more accountable to voters (66 percent of voters found this convincing), it forces candidates to take responsibility for their ads (65 found this convincing), and it ensures a more equal voice for all in the election process (62 percent found this convincing).

“The People’s Pledge” was born during the 2012 U.S. Senate battle between Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren and GOP candidate Scott Brown. Brown ended up making two donations, and the pledge was credited with helping Warren and Brown keep control over their messages and spend more time talking to voters about issues they cared about.

Successful candidates in the 2012 Maine U.S. Senate race, 2013 Massachusetts U.S. Senate race, and the 2013 Los Angeles mayoral race proposed rejecting outside spending and gained public support for doing so.

View a summary of the poll data.