Is Money in Politics Harming Trust in Government? Evidence from Two Survey Experiments
67 Pages Posted: 5 Apr 2011 Last revised: 11 Sep 2012
Date Written: September 10, 2012
Campaign finance policy in the United States is founded on key assumptions about how voters use information about money to evaluate candidates and institutions. In one view, voters use information about campaign contributions as informative signals of a candidate's policy views, leading to better informed voters; in another view, contributions signal the potential for government corruption, leading to more cynical voters. Despite the prominence of these views in theoretical and policy debates, empirical evidence is scarce. To circumvent issues with existing observational studies, and to speak more directly to policy debates, I present the results of two survey experiments where I randomly vary voters' information about money in politics in mock election campaigns. My results support the view that campaign contributions allow voters to better place candidates on an ideological spectrum. In contrast, I find only limited evidence that contributions depress voters' trust in government.
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