In Supreme Court Ruling on Campaign Finance, the Public Dissents

Feb 17, 2010 7:00am

Memo to the Supreme Court: President Obama isn’t the only one who’s annoyed.

Obama raised eyebrows at his State of the Union address last month by criticizing the high court’s ruling throwing out limits on corporate spending in political campaigns. Turns out he’s got company: Our latest ABC News/Washington Post poll finds that 80 percent of Americans likewise oppose the ruling, including 65 percent who “strongly” oppose it, an unusually high intensity of sentiment.

Seventy-two percent, moreover, support the idea of a legislative workaround to try to reinstate the limits the court lifted.

The bipartisan nature of these views is striking in these largely partisan times. The court’s ruling is opposed, respectively, by 76, 81 and 85 percent of Republicans, independents and Democrats; and by 73, 85 and 86 percent of conservatives, moderates and liberals. Majorities in all these groups, ranging from 58 to 73 percent, not only oppose the ruling but feel strongly about it.

Even among people who agree at least somewhat with the Tea Party movement, which advocates less government regulation, 73 percent oppose the high court’s rejection of this particular law. Among the subset who agree strongly with the Tea Party’s positions on the issues – 14 percent of all adults – fewer but still most, 56 percent, oppose the high court in this case.

The court, in a 5-4 ruling Jan. 21, said federal restrictions on corporate spending in elections constituted a violation of free speech. Critics called it wrong to equate corporate "speech" with individual speech and said the ruling would allow special-interest money to flood election campaigns. The ruling did not explicitly include spending by unions, which also was restricted in the law, but is expected to apply to them as well.

In addition to overwhelming opposition to the decision, there’s also bipartisan support for Congress to try to reinstate restrictions on campaign spending by corporations and unions. Seventy-one to 77 percent of Republicans, independents and Democrats alike favor the idea. Ideologically, support for a legislative workaround ranges from 63 percent among conservatives to more than three-quarters of moderates and liberals.

One response to the ruling was proposed by Congressional Democrats last week – a measure that would, among other elements, bar campaign spending by companies with substantial foreign ownership or control, or by government contractors or bailout recipients; and require chief executive officers of companies that pay for campaign ads to appear on camera saying they “approve of this message.”

Click here for the poll questions and results.

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