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Campaign Finance and American DemocracyWhat the Public Really Thinks and Why It Matters$
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David M. Primo and Jeffrey D. Milyo

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226712802

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226713137.001.0001

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Campaign Finance Laws and Trust in Government

Campaign Finance Laws and Trust in Government

Chapter:
(p.135) Chapter Eight Campaign Finance Laws and Trust in Government
Source:
Campaign Finance and American Democracy
Author(s):

David M. Primo

Jeffrey D. Milyo

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226713137.003.0008

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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