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.
In this paper, we present data from a three-mode study carried out in 2010. National surveys were fielded at the same time over the Internet (using an opt-in Internet panel), by telephone with live interviews (using a national RDD sample of landlines and cell phones), and by mail (using a national sample of residential addresses). Each survey utilized a nearly identical questionnaire soliciting information across a range of political and social indicators, many of which can be validated with government data. Comparing the findings from the modes to each other and the validated benchmarks, we demonstrate that a carefully executed opt-in Internet panel produces estimates that are as accurate as a telephone survey and that the two modes differ little in their estimates of other political indicators and their correlates.