The Effects of Increased Campaign Finance Disclosure: Evaluating Reform Proposals

40 Pages Posted: 21 Aug 2014

See all articles by Conor Dowling

Conor Dowling

University of Mississippi

Amber Wichowsky

Marquette University

Date Written: August 19, 2014


Campaign disclosure requirements vary considerably across the United States. In some states, it is difficult to learn much about outside group spending in non-federal elections; other states have recently passed disclosure laws that go beyond federal requirements. This study builds upon a growing body of research on the impact of anonymous spending to address two questions about campaign finance disclosure: what types of disclosure information voters pay attention to and whether there are partisan differences in responsiveness to campaign finance data. We address these questions via an experiment in which people are randomly assigned to receive additional information about the donors to an outside group. We find some evidence that campaign finance information affected candidate evaluations and vote choice, but that subjects’ evaluations were particularly sensitive to whether they were told that out-of-state donors were behind the outside group. Further, we find little evidence that partisan identification conditioned these treatment effects; Republicans, Democrats, and Independents responded to our experimental stimuli in much the same way.

Keywords: campaign finance, disclosure, experiment, transparency, reform

Suggested Citation

Dowling, Conor and Wichowsky, Amber, The Effects of Increased Campaign Finance Disclosure: Evaluating Reform Proposals (August 19, 2014). Available at SSRN: or

Conor Dowling (Contact Author)

University of Mississippi ( email )

United States
6629155673 (Phone)

Amber Wichowsky

Marquette University ( email )

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