Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Poll: Half of Americans want publicly financed elections

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How do you feel about publicly funded elections? You know, that box you can check on your income tax forms to dedicate a few bucks to presidential campaigns.

A new poll shows that half of Americans prefer government funded to individual and political action committee funded campaigns.

Gallup asked people:

"Suppose that on Election Day you could vote on key issues as well as candidates. Would you vote for or against a law that would establish a new campaign finance system where federal campaigns are funded by the government and all contributions from individuals and private groups are banned?"

One in two said they'd vote for that. Just 44 percent said they'd vote against it. Women were split: 46 percent say they favor it; 46 percent don't like it. The rest were undecided.

Support is strongest in the Midwest, where 57 percent favor public funding. In the West, 48 percent support it. 

Democrats are the strongest supporters of public financing: six in ten give it the thumbs up, while 48 percent of independents and 42 percent of Republicans like the idea.

There's even stronger support for limits on campaign spending. Gallup found that nearly eight in ten people (79 percent) support limiting the amount of money Congressional candidates can raise and spend on their elections.

Gallup has found Americans over the years consistently hate the way campaigns are financed, but historically didn't like public financing as an option. Six years ago, 57 percent said "no way" to public financing. 

Citizen's United changed the equation on how much money is spent in elections. That U.S. Supreme Court decision allowed corporations and unions to use their general treasuries to pay for political advertisements that expressly call for the election or defeat of a candidate. 

The non-profit Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks money in US politics, took a look at political spending in the 2010 election, the first under the Citizen's United ruling. It found the amount of independent expenditure and electioneering communication spending by outside groups quadrupled between 2006 and 2010.

Gallup polled 1,015 adults nationwide on June 15-16. The sampling error is plus or minus 3 percent.

So where do you stand on the issue? Take a look at the poll below, but keep in mind: the Supreme Court has consistently ruled that campaign funding is a form of protected speech. For now, this is a kind of thought experiment.

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