Tuesday, June 2, 2009

West Virginia Results Show Conflicting Views

Post by Jonathan Crook, PPP Summer Fellow

West Virginia voters responded to our poll this week in a somewhat contradictory, but not uncommon, manner. They are heartily against the concept of public funding in general, but are in favor of seeking the results that public funding has created in other states for their own.

This state in particular has a rather interesting history of fund-raising and controversy in the elections for members of its highest court - the state Supreme Court of Appeals. Amidst all of the drama surrounding the arms race campaign spending, the conflicts of interests, and the recusals, one would think that the citizens of West Virginia would like to see a change.

According to our poll, they do. 67% of respondents would like to see stricter limits on campaign spending. 74% don't believe that candidates can accept funds from lawyers and law firms without creating conflicts of interests in the courtroom. 40% even think that a public finance system would reduce those conflicts, as opposed to 28% who don't.

West Virginia voters were also in great support of adopting a public finance program similar to that in North Carolina's state judicial system - with 73% saying they would be in favor of such a measure.

Even with all of this, however, when asked point-blank if they want public finance - the answer was a resounding "no." 56% don't agree with public finance in general, and only 25% are in favor of adopting a public finance system for Supreme Court of Appeals elections, even though these same citizens said that it would help later in the survey.

Obviously the terms here are loaded. "Public finance" may evoke very different reactions from different people. Hopefully the discourse on this matter, which is quite relevant in states like West Virginia and many others, won't be swayed by those who seek to exploit the initial reactions of buzzwords and rather take the time to talk about what these terms and policies really mean.

Full results here.

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