Nearly all research on campaign finance overlooks important intermediaries between candidate spending and electoral outcomes. In this study, CCP Academic Advisor John Coleman and John F. Manna consider the effects of campaign spending on a variety of factors important to the health of any democracy and political community: trust, efficacy, involvement, attention, knowledge, and affect. Their analysis of the 1994 and 1996 U.S. House elections shows that the effects of campaign spending lie more on the side of democratic boon than democratic bane. The data shows that campaign spending increases knowledge of and affect toward the candidates, improves the public’s ability to place candidates on ideology and issue scales, and encourages certainty about those placements. Spending neither enhances nor erodes trust and efficacy in politics or attention and interest in campaigns. Accordingly, the authors conclude that campaign spending contributes to key aspects of democracy such as knowledge and affect, while not damaging public trust or involvement.
Congressional Campaign Spending and the Quality of Democracy
August 1, 2000 • By IFS staff • IFS Research