CCP releases tax financing poll, FENA introduced in Congress

The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) released the results of a poll on tax financed political campaigns today as a bill to subsidize congressional campaigns with government funds was re-introduced in Congress.

Sen. Dick Durbin and Rep. John Larson re-introduced the “Fair Elections Now Act” (FENA) today. The bill would allow the government to provide a 4-to-1 match of contributions of $100 or less to candidates who agree to participate. The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the proposed legislation April 12.

CCP’s poll found that Americans do not support tax funding for political candidates, and that the level of intensity shifts based on the wording of the question. The poll of 1,000 adults was developed in collaboration with University of Missouri professor Jeff Milyo and was conducted in October by YouGov as part of the recently released 2010 Cooperative Congressional Election Survey, a multi-university research partnership.

“Promoters of tax financed campaigns tout many supposed benefits such as increased competition, greater candidate diversity, less corruption and reduced interest group influence, but no credible research supports those claims,” said Center for Competitive Politics Vice President Allison Hayward. “Americans are leery of a billion dollar bailout for politicians based on the unproven assumptions of Washington, D.C. interest groups.”

CCP’s poll tested support for two different descriptions of tax financing. Each sub-sample has less than a five percent margin of error.

“Version A” asked respondents if they agreed that “[g]overnment should give taxpayer dollars to candidates to pay for their campaigns.” By a 67-to-12 margin, respondents disagreed. On a one-to-five scale, 61 percent strongly disagreed, 6 percent slightly disagreed, 20 percent were neutral, 7 percent slightly agreed, and 5 percent strongly agreed.

Support slightly increases when the question is framed more favorably to FENA backers. “Version B” asked respondents if they agreed that “[c]andidates should be allowed to use public funds to pay for their campaigns.” Still, by a 62-to-19 percent margin, respondents disagreed. On a one-to-five scale, 54 percent strongly disagreed, 8 percent slightly disagreed, 20 percent were neutral, 8 percent slightly agreed, and 11 percent strongly agreed.

These results contrast with some polls from “reform” organizations, which frequently skew the results by including unproven claims about eliminating corruption, using “free” government money, and making elections “clean.”

Public support for the similar presidential system has steadily plummeted, as the number of Americans designating their tax dollars to the program has dropped from 28.7 percent in 1980 to 8.3 percent in 2007.

“Instead of forcing taxpayers to subsidize candidates who they don’t agree with, Congress should consider raising the federal contribution limit,” said CCP President Sean Parnell. “Citizens, not the government, should control how much to invest in their favored candidates and causes.”

The Center for Competitive Politics is a non-profit organization which seeks to protect the First Amendment political rights of speech, assembly, and petition.

[The description of FENA is based on previously introduced versions. The latest text of the bill has not yet been released.]

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.