October 29, 2010

Campaign finance disclosure is really popular

Very few things are supported by 92 percent of the public these days, but requiring campaigns to disclose their finances is:

Americans are even more supportive of full disclosure by campaigns with 92 percent saying it is important for campaigns to be required by law to disclose how much money they have raised, where the money came from and how it was used. There was little difference in the opinions of each party’s voters on this question. (Emphasis added)

In addition, 8 in 10 say it's important to limit the amount of money campaigns can spend while 7 in 10 say the same thing for outside groups not connected to campaigns.

While these numbers seem lopsided, I would caution against reading too much into them.

In the abstract, transparency is always extremely popular and has no real opposition. Being against transparency would be as unpopular as being against democracy.

Also, any law that limits the amount campaigns or outside groups can spend would be easily ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Precedent states that money equals speech, therefore any law that restricts money (i.e., speech) has to show that it is narrowly tailored to meet a compelling government interest. A law limiting overall campaign spending would not survive that challenge.

Finally, this poll was taken right as the campaign season enters its final stretch. I suspect many people who say they support limits on campaign spending are really just expressing their distaste at the deluge of ads they've watched and heard. I'd be interested to see how these numbers compare to earlier this year, before so many ads were on the air.