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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Jeffrey Milyo & David M. Primo, 2005. "The Effects of Campaign Finance Laws on Turnout, 1950-2000," Working Papers 0516, Department of Economics, University of Missouri, revised 01 Feb 2006.
  • Handle: RePEc:umc:wpaper:0516
    Note: Length: 27 pgs.
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    File URL: https://economics.missouri.edu/working-papers/2005/wp0516_milyo.pdf
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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).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    voting; campaign finance;

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • H79 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - Other
    • K39 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Other

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