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Voters Think Special Interest Money Is Key To Political Victory

Thursday, September 30, 2010 -- Forty-four percent (44%) of Likely U.S. Voters say it is not possible to win a political campaign in this country today without raising money from lobbyists, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey.

Thirty-four percent (34%) disagree and think it is possible to win a campaign without special interest money. Twenty-two percent (22%) are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Voters overwhelmingly believe that most members of Congress are for sale, and over half think it's at least somewhat likely that their own representative has been bought with cash or a campaign contribution.

Most voters also feel that both companies and labor unions need bottom-up approval before spending money on political campaigns. Currently, funding decisions by both groups are made on high by their leadership.

Seventy-eight percent (78%) believe that companies should be required to get shareholder approval before contributing to any political campaigns. Only 15% disagree. Under current law, companies cannot contribute directly to candidates but can help fund advocacy campaigns.

An even higher percentage (86%) say labor unions should be required to get membership approval before contributing to a political campaign. Ten percent (10%) say such approval should not be necessary.

Most voters also agree, but less strongly, that companies and unions should be allowed to tell their rank-and-file how candidates for public office have voted on important issues.

Fifty-six percent (56%) of voters believe companies should be allowed to tell their employees about the voting records of political candidates. Thirty-six percent (36%) oppose allowing companies to do that.

Most (53%) also think unions should be permitted to inform their members about how candidates have voted on important issues. Thirty-three percent (33%) disagree, and 14% more are undecided.

Democrats and voters not affiliated with either party believe slightly more strongly than Republicans that a campaign cannot win without lobbyist money.

There is little partisan disagreement that companies and unions should be required to get bottom-up approval for campaign funding decisions and that they should be allowed to inform the rank-and-file about how candidates have voted on important issues.

A plurality (47%) of those in the know, Political Class voters, agree that a candidate cannot win without money from lobbyists. Mainstream voters are evenly divided on the question.

Those in the Political Class feel more strongly than Mainstream voters that unions should be allowed to tell their members about how candidates have voted.  

In June 2008, with the presidential campaign heating up, the majority (57%) of all voters said it is not possible to run for the presidency without the help of lobbyists and special interest groups.

Fifty-six percent (56%) of voters believe the federal government should regulate how much money individuals can give to political campaigns. But 88% say it's at least somewhat likely that special interest groups will find ways to get money to politicians and influence their votes even if the government places limits on how much individuals can give to campaigns.

In a survey early last year, 57% of Americans said political donors get more than their money back in terms of favors from members of Congress.

Eighty-four percent (84%) want meetings between lobbyists and members of Congress either banned or disclosed. That includes 55% who believe that all such meetings should be disclosed, and 29% who believe they should be prohibited entirely.

The underlying suspicion driving the public desire for disclosure is highlighted by the fact that 59% of Americans believe when members of Congress meet with regulators and other government officials, they do so to help their friends and hurt their political opponents.

However, voters continue to think that media bias is a bigger problem in politics today than big campaign contributions.

See survey questions.

Rasmussen Reports is an electronic media company specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion polling information.  We poll on a variety of topics in the fields of politics, business and lifestyle, updating our site's content on a news cycle throughout the day, everyday.

Scott Rasmussen, president of Rasmussen Reports, has been an independent pollster for more than a decade. To learn more about our methodology, click here.

The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on September 28-29, 2010 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.


©2010 Rasmussen Reports, LLC

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