Post by Jonathan Crook, PPP Summer Fellow:
Last week we polled Alabama voters about their state Supreme Court elections. Unsurprisingly, respondents said that they want stricter spending limits for candidates. They felt that campaign contributions influence the way that judges make decision in the courtroom. They're extremely concerned about special interest groups buying advertising spots for candidates.
However, they don't want anything to do with public financing. We've gotten the results after polling in North Carolina, West Virginia, and now Alabama. Voters in these states are clearly in favor of doing all of the things that public finance programs aim to do, but when you mention those magic words, people automatically change their tune.
I'm beginning to think that the inconsistencies with our polls about public finance are stemming from a lack of knowledge about the specifics of these programs, and then tendencies for people to hear the term "public finance" and think about what a fiasco the program in place for presidential candidates has been. In my opinion, the public funding for Presidential elections has been the most publicized, so when people hear about such programs, they mistakenly make that connection.
Next week I will try to explain the specifics of a state public finance program to see if that will change the results at all. If it doesn't, it could just mean that people want a different solution to the problem.
Full results here