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Campaign Finance Laws and Trust in Government

Campaign Finance Laws and Trust in Government

(p.135) Chapter Eight Campaign Finance Laws and Trust in Government
Campaign Finance and American Democracy
David M. PrimoJeffrey D. Milyo
University of Chicago Press

Primo and Milyo construct the largest dataset to date of survey results asking Americans about their trust or confidence in state government. The dataset pools nearly 60,000 individual-level observations culled from more than 50 surveys fielded between 1987 and 2017. This time period spans several major court decisions, including Citizens United. Primo and Milyo then combine this survey data with state-level data on changes in campaign finance laws and other state-level rules and institutional features during this time period. Using this data, they conduct the first study to examine the within-state determinants of trust and confidence in state government by exploiting the variation in campaign finance laws across states and over time. Primo and Milyo find that there simply is no meaningful relationship between state-level trust in government and state campaign finance laws during this time period. This is a major finding running counter to forty years of jurisprudence, as well as reformers’ promises and scholarly claims that reform is critical to maintaining or restoring citizens’ faith in the integrity of democracy.

Keywords:   trust in government, public opinion, campaign finance laws, Citizens United

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