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Greater information about who funds political campaigns is unlikely to influence how people vote, according to new research by our School of Government and International Affairs.

Dr Thomas Robinson carried out a survey experiment with voters in the USA – including Democrats, Republicans and Independents - to see if more knowledge about funding would affect how they cast their ballots.

Looking at state governor elections and ballot initiative races – where people propose new state laws - he found that voters were unlikely to be influenced by where politicians got their funding.

Instead, they were more likely to vote according to a candidate’s party and policies.

Campaign finance

Dr Robinson’s findings suggest that more information about who funds candidates would not necessarily limit the influence of money in elections.

Instead, he recommends that if the USA wants to curb the impact wealthy organisations or individuals have on political campaigning it should introduce proactive measures to regulate campaign finance.

This might include stricter contribution limits and matched-funding schemes, he added.

All those surveyed were more positive towards campaigns funded mostly by donations from within their own state.

This suggested that regulators might want to pursue policies that emphasise this feature in elections when thinking about reducing the influence of donors.

Primary elections

Dr Robinson acknowledged that a smaller number of Republican voters included in the study could limit the extent to which the experiment can detect whether Democrats and Republicans behave similarly. Future surveys would look to include more Republican voters.

He also plans to examine the influence of campaign funding sources on US primary elections, where candidates are drawn from within the same party.

Although the study focussed on the USA, Dr Robinson said he would not be surprised if transparency about political campaign funding also had a limited effect on voters in other countries, including the UK.

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