Most Americans think that donations play a major role in the policy decisions of elected officials, and there is large support for capping donations to political campaigns.
The 2012 election cycle, which included the Presidential election, was the most expensive on record with around $7 billion being spent on the election by candidates, parties and other groups. In recent years efforts to limit the influence of money on politics have largely run aground, with the courts ruling that some limits are unconstitutional, such as the ban corporate political spending to influence elections that was overturned in the Citizens United decision. Other reforms, such as the McCain-Feingold Act of 2002, have inadvertently ended up weakening parties and strengthened outside political groups known as political action committees (PACs) that are able to raise and spend money with fewer restrictions and less scrutiny than candidates and parties.
The latest research from YouGov shows that most Americans (65%) think that donations play at least a 'very important role' in the decisions elected officials make about government policy. 19% of these public say that it is 'the most important' part of why elected officials make the decisions that they do. Only 5% of Americans say that donations either play a 'not very important role' or 'no role at all'.
Asked why donors give money to candidates, nearly half of Americans (48%) say that the reasons are split between wanting to influence candidates and wanting to help candidates who agree with donors on policies. Only 15% say that donors exclusively give money to shape the positions of candidates, while 25% say that money is just given to candidates who already share the positions of donors.
Most Americans agree with limiting the amount of money that various groups can spend in support of campaigns, with 53% supporting caps on individual donations and only 19% opposing them. Support is highest for capping the donations of foreign corporations (56%) and lowest for capping the amount of money that candidates can spend on their own campaigns (48%).
Asked specifically about caps on individual donations for candidates running for federal office, 68% of Americans support such a cap and only 19% oppose it. On this issue, as with others, partisan divides are limited with most Democrats (75%) and Republicans (60%) tending to support some limits on donations to federal candidates.
Full poll results can be found here.