In the immediate aftermath of an election dominated by big money last November, New York launched its groundbreaking public campaign financing program. To counter the disproportionate influence of megadonors, the program amplifies the smallest contributions and boosts campaigns already powered by constituent support. Its in-district match requirement also incentivizes candidates to engage more with local donors. The voluntary program stands as the nation’s most robust legislative response to Citizen United’s antidemocratic impact on our elections.
Now, a newly released poll by Data for Progress and Stand Up America shows New Yorkers’ strong support for the statewide program, with voters backing the program by a margin of nearly 34 points.
With adequate resources, the program has the potential to significantly increase the financial power of small-donor New Yorkers while permitting participating candidates to raise competitive sums. Lawmakers and officials must meet this crucial moment and ensure the program receives sufficient funding in the upcoming fiscal year.
These are the poll’s key results:
- Voters across the state believe wealthy donors have too much influence in our elections. More than 9 in 10 voters (91 percent) believe wealthy donors have an outsized influence on politicians when compared to the average voter, with 77 percent of the electorate expressing concern about the power of wealthy donors in New York politics.
- Voters want their elected leaders to do something about this. More than two-thirds of voters (70 percent) want their elected officials to prioritize countering the influence of wealthy donors in politics. A majority of voters across demographics including race, age, and political party support this as a priority issue. This finding is also consistent across each region of the state, including Long Island and Central, Western, and Northern New York.
- A large majority of voters want to see public financing of campaigns in New York State. When informed of the voluntary program and asked whether they support it, more than 6 in 10 voters (61 percent) expressed their support. Majorities in every region of the state continued to support the program even after reading messaging both in favor and against it.
- A large majority of voters also want state leaders to adequately fund the program so it can run as intended. When informed of the program’s estimated cost and of state leadership’s current budget negotiations, nearly two-thirds of voters (62 percent) expressed support for the program to receive sufficient funding, with a majority of voters across party lines backing this proposal.
These results are consistent with national surveys. Pew Research Center’s recent study revealed that reducing the influence of money in politics is a top policy priority for Americans this year — a finding consistent across demographics including race, age, and political party affiliation. This priority issue edged out other policy matters such as reducing crime, improving education, and addressing climate change.
Last fall, New Yorkers observed the grip of wealthy special interests on their elections firsthand. Just 200 individual large donors gave more than all 206,000 small donors of $250 or less combined. Against this backdrop, New York voters — including 83 percent of Democrats, 86 percent of Independents, and 84 percent of Republicans — overwhelmingly find that the influence of wealthy donors harms a representative democracy. And they want state leadership to take action.
With a majority of New York voters backing sufficient funding for New York’s critical reform, it’s time for state leadership to demonstrate steadfast support for the state’s small donor public financing program in its first cycle. A successful rollout can demonstrate to all New Yorkers that public campaign financing will fulfill its promise of making politicians more accountable to voters.
CORRECTION: The original version of this piece stated that New York voters support the state’s public campaign financing program by a margin of nearly 37 points. The piece has been updated to reflect that the margin of support is nearly 34 points.