Politicians are fond of saying that taxpayers don't want their money used to pay for political campaigns. Actually, they do.
A national bipartisan poll done by two top D.C.-area political polling firms – one that caters almost exclusively to Republicans and corporate interests and the other that works primarily for Democrats, labor unions and progressive advocacy groups – shows strong public support for publicly financed elections. Support for taxpayer-funded elections is high in every region of the country, and actually is slightly higher in the conservative South than it is in the more liberal Northeast and Midwest. Support cuts across gender and age lines, not to mention political party affiliation. More than two-thirds of Democrats back public financing, but an even higher percentage of Republicans do too.
Over two-thirds of voters (69%) believe we need changes to the way elections are financed, and the polling provides a strong clue as to why. An overwhelming majority of voters make the connection between large campaign donations and the lack of progress in dealing with the nation's most pressing problems. A supermajority (77%) of those surveyed agreed with the statement “I am worried that large political contributions will prevent Congress from tackling the important issues facing America today, like the economic crisis, rising energy costs, reforming health care, and global warming.”
And a large majority see big campaign contributions as a major cause of the economic meltdown. Over two-thirds (70%) of voters agree with the statement “Large campaign contributions from the banking industry to members of Congress have resulted in lax oversight and have been a major factor in causing the current financial crisis on Wall Street.”
In the weeks and months to come, we'll undoubtedly hear politicians of just about every stripe claim that we can't afford public financing of election campaigns in these tough economic times. The people these politicians are supposed to be representing have a distinctly different view, as this latest poll shows. From coast to coast, from young to old, from left to right, Americans have reached the conclusion that we cannot afford the way political campaigns are financed today. The cost to our country is far too high.