When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Citizens United in 2010, Justice Anthony Kennedy famously opined that allowing unlimited corporate spending on elections would not "give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption."
Yeah, right. Regular folks clearly don't buy that.
The first national poll on the impact of super PACs on American politics found that an overwhelming number of people, regardless of their political affiliation, believe super PAC spending will indeed lead to corruption. More troublesome, one in four surveyed by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University's School of Law indicated they are less likely to vote because they think large donors to super PACs will have far more influence over elected officials than they.
"An alarming number of Americans report that their concerns about the influence of donors to outside political groups make them less likely to engage in democracy," wrote researchers at the Brennan Center for Justice. "Communities of color, those with lower incomes, and individuals with less formal education are more likely to disengage due to concerns about how much influence is wielded by Super PAC donors."
The telephone poll of 1,015 American adults was conducted by the nonpartisan Opinion Research Corporation from April 12 through April 15. The overall margin of error is 3.1 percentage points. The margin of error is slightly greater for results on the party breakdowns.
Here are the important numbers, according to the Brennan Center for Justice:
- 69 percent said they believe the "new rules that let corporations, unions and people give unlimited money to Super PACs will lead to corruption." Only 15 percent disagreed. Notably, 74 percent of Republicans and 73 percent of Democrats agreed with this statement.
- 73 percent agreed "there would be less corruption if there were limits on how much could be given to Super PACs." Only 14 percent disagreed. Here, 75 percent of Republicans and 78 percent of Democrats agreed.
- Only about 20 percent agreed that average voters have the same access to and influence on candidates as big donors to Super PACs. Two-thirds of Americans disagree.
- 68 percent agreed that a company that spent $100,000 to help elect a member of Congress could successfully pressure him or her to change a vote on proposed legislation. Only one in five respondents disagreed.
- 77 percent agreed that members of Congress are more likely to act in the interest of a group that spent millions to elect them than to act in the public interest. Only 10 percent disagreed.
- 65 percent said that they trust government less because big donors to Super PACs have more influence than regular voters.
- 26 percent said they are less likely to vote because big donors to Super PACs have so much more influence over elected officials than average Americans.
It seems that the only thing less popular than super PACs these days is Congress itself.