New Polls Show Overwhelming Support for Fighting Big Money in Elections

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Chris MacKenzie

U.S. PIRG Education Fund

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Two new polls by Bloomberg Politics and MAYDAY.US reveal broad, bipartisan support for reforming our campaign finance system. Bloomberg’s poll, released on September 28, revealed support among 78 percent of Americans for overturning Citizens United. A poll released September 25 by MAYDAY.US found that 72 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of Republicans support programs that match small donor contributions with public funds.

These polls come on the heels of a study by U.S. PIRG Education Fund, which found that under a small donor matching system, candidates in the 2016 presidential race would see a dramatic shift in their fundraising and have a powerful incentive to focus more on small donors. According to the poll released on Friday by MAYDAY.US, this system has widespread bipartisan support among the American public.

 “Americans of all political stripes are ready for reform,” said Dan Smith, Democracy Program Director for U.S. PIRG Education Fund and author of the recent study. “It’s time we start talking about how we’re going to reduce the influence of special interests and wealthy donors and put regular voters back in control of our elections. A small donor matching program would do just that.”

U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s study examines the impact of a small donor matching system similar to those proposed in the Government by the People Act (H.R. 20) and the Fair Elections Now Act (S. 1538). Both of these bills propose a program that would match small contributions with public funds at a rate of six-to-one or more, and establish lower maximum contribution limits for candidates who volunteer to participate and demonstrate viability by meeting qualifying thresholds for small donor fundraising.  

Key findings from “Boosting the Impact of Small Donors”:

• Without a small donor matching system, candidates received 33 percent of their funds from donors giving less than $200. Under the proposed system, 74 percent of the total funds would come from small donors and their corresponding matching funds.

• Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has raised 77 percent of his contributions from small donors compared to former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton’s 18 percent, but Clinton is currently outraising Sanders by more than three to one. With a small donor matching system, Sanders would close the gap significantly, trailing Clinton in fundraising by just 7 percent.

• Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush raised $11 million directly from his campaign committee, about a tenth of the total raised by his Right to Rise Super PAC. While Bush’s direct fundraising is on par with that of Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, neurosurgeon Ben Carson, and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, only three percent of his contributions come from small donors, and a matching system would give Cruz, Paul, Rubio, and Carson a commanding lead.

• Bush is the only candidate who would have raised less money directly for his campaign under a small donor matching system that requires candidates to accept lower contribution limits.

• Under a small donor matching system, Sanders and Clinton would raise nearly as much as Right to Rise, the largest Super PAC in the 2016 presidential race.

• Clinton, Bush, and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley raised the largest share of their funds from donors giving $2,700, the maximum federal contribution limit. A small donor matching system would provide a powerful incentive to focus more of their efforts on small donors.  

Click here for a copy of “Boosting the Impact of Small Donors: How Matching Funds Would Reshape the 2016 Presidential Election.”


#  #  #With public debate around important issues often dominated by special interests pursuing their own narrow agendas, U.S. PIRG Education Fund offers an independent voice that works on behalf of the public interest. U.S. PIRG Education Fund, a 501(c)(3) organization, works to protect consumers and promote good government. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public, and offer Americans meaningful opportunities for civic participation. 


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