Show Me the Money: Candidate Selection Based on Campaign Finance Transparency
47 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2017 Last revised: 18 Jul 2019
Date Written: July 16, 2019
For most voters in most contexts, policy position differences trump so-called valence traits – characteristics that voters prefer regardless of their political preferences. However, the valence conditions scholars have analyzed so far are broad and nonspecific (e.g. corruption, education). I argue that campaign finance transparency is an under-studied way for candidates to demonstrate their willingness to comply with laws and to manage a large campaign organization transparently. Campaign finance transparency reveals important non-policy attributes that voters care about as a signal of how the candidate would govern if elected. Using vignette and conjoint survey experiments, I show that voters in primary elections base their candidate selection on transparency considerations, even where the candidate shares the respondents’ preferred policy positions. The findings bring campaign finance compliance into the scholarly conversation about candidate valence, and they explain why some primary candidates discourage dark money support only to embrace it in the general election.
Keywords: Dark Money, Campaign Finance, Survey, Experiment, Disclosure
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