Super PACs are unwelcome guests at the 2012 election party: Seven in 10 Americans say these private, campaign-spending organizations should be illegal.
Echoing widespread disapproval of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that authorized super PACs in 2010, a bipartisan 69 percent in this ABC News/Washington Post poll would ban them now. More than half, 52 percent, feel that way strongly.
Exercising what the high court characterized as free speech, these privately run political action committees can raise unlimited money from individuals, corporations and unions. They’re estimated to have spent $75 million to date on the 2012 election cycle, including nearly $70 million on the presidential contest – more than the candidates’ campaigns themselves.
Seventy-eight percent of independents and 70 percent of Democrats favor outlawing super PACs; fewer Republicans but a majority, 55 percent, agree. Banning these committees likewise is supported by 60, 70 and 82 percent of conservatives, moderates and liberals, respectively.
This poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds that even among supporters of the Tea Party political movement – skeptics of government regulation in general – 69 percent say super PACs should be illegal, including 59 percent of “strong” Tea Party supporters.
Support for allowing super PACs to operate legally, while not high, peaks at 36 percent among Republicans, 34 percent among people with household incomes more than $100,000 and 34 percent among young adults, age 18 to 29.
Views overall, as noted, are consistent with those on the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that cleared the way for these super PACs by removing restrictions on political spending by corporations. Eighty percent in an ABC/Post poll at the time opposed the ruling, and 72 percent said they’d favor legislative efforts to reinstate campaign spending limits the court had lifted. The court may potentially revisit the issue via a new dispute over a Montana campaign finance law.
After initially opposing super PACs, Barack Obama last month shifted positions, saying he would accept their backing in order to stay competitive with campaign spending by super PACs on behalf of his eventual Republican opponent.
METHODOLOGY – This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone March 7-10, 2012, among a random national sample of 1,003 adults, including landline and cell-phone-only respondents. Results have a margin of sampling error of 4 points for the full sample. The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y., with sampling, data collection and tabulation by Abt-SRBI of New York, N.Y.