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Campaign Finance and Political Efficacy: Evidence from the States

  • David M. Primo
  • Jeffrey D. Milyo

The decline of political efficacy and political trust in the United States is often linked to the rise of money in politics. Both the courts and reform advocates justify restrictions on campaign donations and spending as necessary to restore faith in government. We conduct the first scientific test of whether campaign finance laws actually influence how citizens view their government by exploiting the variation in campaign finance regulations both across and within states over the last 50 years. Our analysis reveals no substantively large positive effects of campaign finance laws, although public disclosure laws and limits on contributions from organizations are associated with increased efficacy. However, public financing is associated with a decrease in efficacy. Consequently, we find little support for the frequent claim that stricter campaign finance regulations will restore Americans’ faith in government.

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Paper provided by Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago in its series Working Papers with number 0315.

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Date of creation: Nov 2003
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Handle: RePEc:har:wpaper:0315
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