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Poll Shows Strong Bipartisan Support for Agreement by Candidates to Curb Avalanche of Outside Spending

Aug. 13, 2014

Poll Shows Strong Bipartisan Support for Agreement by Candidates to Curb Avalanche of Outside Spending

Voters Support Candidate Agreements To Make Politicians More Accountable

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new poll commissioned by Public Citizen shows strong bipartisan support among voters for agreements by candidates 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 such agreements because they make politicians more accountable to voters.

Under one such agreement, candidates agree that if an outside group purchases any broadcast, print or online ad on behalf of a candidate, that candidate will donate a percentage of the ad’s cost to a charity of the opposing candidate’s choice.

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.

 “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.”

 “Outside money” is money spent on elections by groups not associated with candidates, including 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.

In the poll, 68 percent of voters said they felt favorable or very favorable toward a candidate agreement to curb outside spending. 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 an agreement because they make politicians more accountable to voters (66 percent of voters surveyed), force candidates to take responsibility for their ads (65 of voters surveyed), and ensure a more equal voice for all in the election process (62 percent of voters surveyed).

During the 2012 U.S. Senate battle between Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren and GOP candidate Scott Brown, the candidates struck such an agreement to deter outside spending, calling it a “People’s Pledge.” Their 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.