Once again we see a great deal of agreement about a public policy issue, challenging the image of a fractured society based on political party or conservative-liberal ideology. The support for limiting corporate spending was strong across the board, no matter how the data was compared.
A February SurveyUSA poll (www.surveyusa.com) showed that Americans across all political views favor limiting corporate spending in elections. 78% stated that corporations should be limited and 70% believe that have had too much influence in elections. A whopping 87% believe that corporations rescued financially by the federal government and 82% believe that corporations doing business with the federal government should be limited in how much they spend to support or oppose a candidate for public office.
While the agreement on these questions were often within the margin of error when comparing political party identification and conservative-liberal views (although on a few questions, a higher percentage of Independents supported limits), the thing that struck me were the differences by region. While 70% overall believed that the corporations had too much influence, people in the west weighed in at 84%. While 61% overall believed that Congress has done too little to regulate how much influence corporations have over elections, people in the west weighed in at 77%. Similarly, while 78% overall said corporations should be limited in how much they spend, 91% of the western people favored limitations.
Are these differences meaningful? Yes. Their poll using random digit dialing had 1,200 respondents. In their presentation of the results they included the margin of sampling error for each of their questions and the comparisons by demographics, including region of the country (using a cross-tabulation analysis). The margin of error tended to be at the +/-3 percent mark. The scores for the west were outside of the sampling margin of error, letting us conclude that those differences reflected what would likely be true if everyone in the country was surveyed. Why do a larger percentage of people in the west favor limiting corporate spending on elections?
The poll was conducted for the People for the American Way, who advocate for freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to seek justice in a court of law, the right to cast a vote that counts and equality under the law. The People for the American Way are advocating for a constitutional amendment to allow Congress to limit how much corporations spend to influence elections in response to the recent Supreme Court ruling allowing unlimited spending by corporations. The survey respondents were asked whether they would support, oppose, or do not know enough. The results: 42% support, 19% oppose, and 39% do not know enough.
In the survey world, 39% “don’t know” is a huge percent. It suggests to me that the issue of a constitutional amendment is too new; given the other data, it would seem that a strong serious educational effort to explain both the amendment and the amendment process would likely win support.
In their analysis, they excluded all those who do not give an opinion (the 39% who said they did not have enough information), and accurately report, “Of the over 60% of Americans who have an opinion on a constitutional amendment….support runs greater than 2 to 1.” The reporting is technically correct but a quick read might lead someone to conclude that most people favor it. Paying attention to these analysis details is important.