The 2012 election will be the most expensive in history, fueled by unlimited spending by super PACs and other political groups, as well as candidates’ furious fundraising to keep up. On the second anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, it’s clear that the American people are tired of a political system that sidelines ordinary voters while selling power and influence to the highest bidder. At a time when Americans believe the country is on the wrong track and have little faith in Congress, voters want their leaders to stand for reform and accountability, centered on breaking the nexus of money and power in Washington.

The latest survey by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner for Democracy Corps and Public Campaign Action Fund shows that the Citizens United decision is intensely unpopular. Americans across all parties oppose the ruling; among all voters, 62 percent oppose the decision and nearly half (46 percent) strongly oppose it. More than half of all voters say they would support a constitutional amendment to reverse the opinion.

This survey reveals that campaign finance reform cannot be overlooked in 2012; more than three-quarters of American voters say that it is important for candidates to make campaign finance reform a key election issue. More importantly, voters say that reducing the influence of money in politics will be a deciding factor when they go to the ballot box in November.

Key Findings

  • Voters are intensely angry at lobbyists and the influence of money in politics. Two-thirds of voters give lobbyists a negative rating on our thermometer scale, more than half (54 percent) give them intensely negative ratings. A large majority (57 percent) give money in politics a negative rating, nearly half (49 percent) are intensely negative about the influence of money in politics.
  • Americans strongly oppose the Citizens United decision and a majority (55 percent) believe that corporations should not have the same constitutional rights as individuals.
  • Voters believe that the system is stacked against them—addressing the role of big money in politics is about giving ordinary voters a voice in Washington again. A strong majority (60 percent) say that the middle class will not catch a break in this economy until we reduce the influence of lobbyists, big banks, and big donors.
  • A near consensus exists among voters that there should be limits on campaign money.Eight in ten voters say there is too much big money spent on political campaigns and elections today and that campaign contributions and spending should be limited.
  • This has a big impact on the way voters see candidates for the highest offices. Two-thirds of all voters and three-quarters of independents say that big donors and secret money undermine democracy.
  • By a two-to-one margin, voters say reducing the influence of lobbyists and money in politics will be an important factor in their vote.
  • Swing voters, independents in particular, fall strongly on the side of reform, making campaign finance reform a potentially consequential election issue.
  • Right now, neither party owns this issue. Republicans enjoy a slight advantage on “cleaning up the mess in Washington.” However, 28 percent either refused to answer the question or volunteered “neither” when asked which party would do a better job. An issue this important to voters is ripe for either party to grab at this early stage of the election season.
  • Voters are broadly supportive of campaign finance reform. They support a plan that would replace the current system of big contributions with one built on small donations and matching funds.



Frequency Questionnaire

Written by Stan Greenberg, James Carville, Erica Seifert, and David Donnelly for Democracy Corps and Public Campaign Action Fund.