By Andrea Germanos
Common Dreams (4/27/18)
Amidst a widely-shared recognition that the country is effectively being run by powerful special interests, a new poll out Friday shows that more than 3 out of 4 Americans now support serious campaign finance reform as a way to mitigate the corrupting influence of money in the nation’s democracy.
The results of the extensive Pew Research Center survey, released Thursday, reveal Americans “see the country falling well short in living up to” democratic ideals and values, and believe core changes are needed in the political system.
Seventy-six percent say the government is run by a few big interests, a level unchanged since 2015. Just 21 percent say the government is run for the benefit of all.
This marks the continuation of a trend begun in the early 1970s.
Though the majority of both Democrats and Republicans see a special interest stranglehold on government, there is a slight partisan divide. While 84 percent of Democrats now say government is run by big interests, 71 percent had that opinion in 2015. For Republicans, meanwhile, the percentage has shifted downward. Eighty-one percent held that belief in 2015 compared to 71 percent now.
Rewind to 1964, and Americans’ views on the issue were quite different. In 1964, only 29 percent believed the government was run by special interests, compared to 64 percent who said it was “run for the benefit of all the people.” By 1974, however, the belief that government was run for the benefit of all had taken a deep nosedive, plunging nearly 40 percentage points to 25 percent.
Bipartisan support for reform
The new survey also shows widespread backing of campaign finance reform.
Over three-quarters of Americans—77 percent—say that there should be limits on the amount of money political candidates can spend on campaigns. There is strong support from both Democrats (85 percent) and Republicans (71 percent).
A majority of Americans—65 percent—say they believe new campaign finance laws would be effective in limiting the amount of money in political campaigns.
Noting such support, advocacy group Public Citizen’s Democracy Is for People campaign said the poll results should fuel the call to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United, which struck down laws that limited corporate and union spending in elections.
“Let’s turn opinion into action by overturning #CitizensUnited and enacting public financing of elections nationwide,” the group tweeted.
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