Do Campaign Donors Influence Polarization? Evidence from Public Financing in the American States

May 1, 2014   •  By Matt Nese   •    •  

In this article, the authors examine how the source of campaign funds influences legislative polarization. The authors develop competing theoretical expectations regarding the effects of publicly-financed elections on legislative voting behavior and posit that public financing may polarize, moderate, or have negligible effects on roll call votes. To test these expectations, the study leverages a natural quasi-experiment in the New Jersey Assembly in which public financing was made available to a subset of members. Using synthetic case control to secure reliable causal inferences, the analysis demonstrates that public financing exerts substantively negligible effects on roll call voting behavior. The authors then use data on polarization in state legislatures to examine the impact of public financing in Arizona and Maine. Ultimately, the study finds that public financing does not influence legislative behavior. The authors conclude that the source of campaign funds exerts minimal influence on polarization.

Read the study here.


Matt Nese

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