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A New Poll Shows Everyone Hates Money in Politics. What Now?

June 2, 2015 | Adam Smith

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A broad, bipartisan majority of the American people oppose our broken campaign finance system, think the wealthy have more influence than everyone else (that this is bad), and support limits on the size of contributions, according to a new New York Times/CBS News poll released today.

If you’ve been paying attention to this issue—or just talked to a human being outside of Washington, D.C.—those numbers won’t surprise you. But there are some key points worth highlighting:

1. What other issue in American politics has such broad support across so many demographics? Just look at this question about whether people support limiting contributions. Here’s the breakdown across various groups:

Apple pie probably doesn’t even have that kind of support across all demographics.

2. There’s a pox on both their houses. Fifty-eight percent of respondents think it’s a problem that impacts both parties equally. There’s room for candidates—be they Democrats or Republicans—to take real leadership on this issue and they’ll be rewarded.

3. More broadly, most media polls that ask questions about money in politics lob one or two at the end. It’s rare to see such a deep dive–especially from an outlet as large as the New York Times–on this. It’s another sign that the issue of money in politics is going to be a big in 2016.

4. A few weeks ago, a reporter used a poll showing “dissatisfaction with government” as the number one issue for voters to show that people don’t care about money in politics. Trust in government and opposition to our broken campaign finance system should be seen as one in the same. From the Times article, “Some expressed a profound alienation from their own government. They said they did not expect elected officials to listen to them. They described politics as a province of the wealthy. … Even if they do vote, the responses suggested, Americans do not believe they can overcome the political clout of people and organizations with money.”

5. Most importantly, people don’t think politicians will actually make change and, perhaps coincidentally, don’t rank addressing the system as a number one issue.

This is a problem. The debate about whether money buys policy and politicians has been decided so overwhelmingly that voters are now cynical that anything can be done to address it. But it can be: in Montana, in Maine, in Seattle, in Montgomery County, and in cities and states across the country people (and politicians!) are standing up and fighting back

Elected officials supportive of reform – and me and my colleagues – have got to tell these success stories. We’ve got to talk about solutions and not just the problems. And we have to do this in the context of how the current system impacts the lives of families trying to put their kids through college or anyone struggling to pay for health insurance.

Adam Smith

Adam Smith is Every Voice's communications director.