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The Effects of Campaign Finance Laws on Turnout, 1950-2000

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Abstract

Scholars have proposed many routes by which campaign finance laws may impact turnout. For instance, laws restricting campaign spending may decrease mobilization, resulting in lower turnout. Alternatively, such laws might increase the competitiveness of elections, resulting in higher turnout. Existing studies tend to focus on only one causal pathway, ignoring the net effects of campaign finance reforms on voter turnout. We exploit the variation in state campaign finance laws from 1950 to 2000 in order to estimate the reduced-form relationships between reform and turnout. Using both aggregate and individual-level data, we find that campaign finance laws on net have little impact on turnout in gubernatorial elections. There are two exceptions to this finding: Limits on organizational contributions are shown in an individual level analysis to increase turnout prior to a sea change in campaign finance ushered in by the Buckley v. Valeo decision in 1976, while public financing laws are shown to have an equally large negative impact on turnout in the post-Buckley era. These results strengthens the existing literature, which finds similarly perverse effects of public financing on the quality of democracy, and demonstrates the advantages of reduced-form analysis for understanding the influence of laws on behavior.

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File URL: http://economics.missouri.edu/working-papers/2005/wp0516_milyo.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Department of Economics, University of Missouri in its series Working Papers with number 0516.

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Length: 27 pgs.
Date of creation: 28 Nov 2005
Date of revision: 01 Feb 2006
Handle: RePEc:umc:wpaper:0516

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Keywords: voting; campaign finance;

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  1. Matsusaka, John G, 1993. " Election Closeness and Voter Turnout: Evidence from California Ballot Propositions," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 76(4), pages 313-34, August.
  2. Mutsusaka, J.G. & Palda, F., 1991. "The Downsian Voter Meets the Ecological Fallacy," Papers 91-30, Southern California - School of Business Administration.
  3. White, Halbert, 1980. "A Heteroskedasticity-Consistent Covariance Matrix Estimator and a Direct Test for Heteroskedasticity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(4), pages 817-38, May.
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Cited by:
  1. Mullins, Michelle & Milyo, Jeffrey & Sykuta, Michael E., 2006. "Regulating for Public Health: Motivations for and Efficacy of State Alcohol Regulations," 2006 Annual meeting, July 23-26, Long Beach, CA 21176, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).

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