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MEDIA CONTACT: Sharon Dickman 585.275.4128 or DavidPrimo 585.273.4779
September 25, 2003
Voters' Trust Not Tied to Campaign Finance Laws, Researchers Say
Even in political races close to home, U.S. voters don't link campaign finance
reform to their own sense of trust in government. David Primo of the University
of Rochester and Jeffrey Milyo of the University of Chicago found that people's
attitudes toward government do not depend on campaign finance laws in their
Political scientists Primo and Milyo used statistical data from the National
Election Studies covering 1952-2000 and state-level figures to examine the relationship
between campaign finance laws and a concept related to trust, "political
efficacy." "We find limited support for the claim that restrictions
on contributions improve political efficacy," the researchers say in their
study. Political efficacy refers to the belief that a person can have an influence
on the political process.
"The effect of campaign finance laws is often perverse, rarely positive,
and in all cases modest," the authors write. They suggest that "justifications
for reform ought to be with respect to other features of the political process,
such as competitiveness and turnout, and not with respect to making citizens
feel better about their government."
Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments about the McCain-Feingold
campaign finance law passed in 2002, which bans "soft money" contributions
by groups and allows increases in donations from individuals. Defenders of the
law say that large donations by special interests corrupt the political system
and alienate voters; others want to overturn it because they believe it is unconstitutional
and brings excessive federal intrusion into state and local political parties.
The authors say their research is the first systematic test of the link between
campaign finance laws and citizen perception of government. Primo is assistant
professor of political science at Rochester and Milyo is assistant professor
at the Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies at Chicago. They presented
their findings at the 2003 annual meeting of the American Political Science
Association last month.
At present, the United States is in an era of "mature" campaign finance
regulation, Primo and Milyo say, since all states have disclosure laws on the
books, and most states have some restrictions on contributions.
About the University of Rochester
The University of Rochester (www.rochester.edu) is one of the nation's leading private universities. Located in Rochester, N.Y., the University gives students exceptional opportunities for interdisciplinary study and close collaboration with faculty through its unique cluster-based curriculum. Its College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering is complemented by the Eastman School of Music, Simon School of Business, Warner School of Education, Laboratory for Laser Energetics, Schools of Medicine and Nursing, and the Memorial Art Gallery.