Explaining the Unpopularity of Public Funding for Congressional Elections. Electoral Studies [Internet]. 2011;30 (3) :525–533. Publisher's VersionAbstract.
This article uses data from the 2008 Cooperative Congressional Election Study to explain weak support for public financing of congressional campaigns. Previous studies lack theory to explain variation in support and use a flawed measure of the dependent variable. We argue that low support reflects a failure resulting from a collective action dilemma. Citizens desire a campaign finance system that weans politicians from private donors, but are unwilling to pay a small amount in taxes to support public financing. In contrast to conventional wisdom, we show that support for public financing is highest among those perceived to benefit the most from the current system. Our results suggest that most Americans would rather not pay for politics, and that reform proposals must avoid incurring transparent costs on individual citizens to pay for reform.