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Who’s Winning the Battle for Public Opinion Over Anonymous Campaign Spending?

Have the Democrats’ attacks on Crossroads GPS and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s shadowy financing hit or missed? Turns out they’ve done a little bit of both.

On the one hand, first Crossroads GPS and now the Chamber have claimed that the allegations have galvanized their supporters and sent their fundraising through the roof. A Chamber official emailed Politico’s Mike Allen yesterday to brag, “I don’t have exact numbers, because money is continuing to pour in. It even crashed our servers. The phones blew up today – people were calling all day long. Bottom line: Today was the single largest day of online fundraising that we have ever had in the history of the Chamber.”

And conservative commentators like Glenn Beck pitched in to the cause, effectively turning a large portion of his radio show to a pledge drive for the Chamber and donating $10,000 while on the air.

On the other hand, a new poll commissioned by MoveOn (but carried out by the non-partisan Survey USA polling firm) suggests that — contrary to the expectations of most Washingtonians — voters do care a great deal about the amount of secret funding flooding elections. Among the findings of the poll, MoveOn points out:

***** An overwhelming 84% of voters polled, including 80% of Republicans and 81% of Independents, believe voters have a right to know who is paying for ads for a particular candidate.

***** Fifty-six percent of voters overall (including 53% of Independents) are less likely to vote for a candidate if they know the ads supporting that candidate are paid for anonymous corporations and wealthy donors.

* Forty-seven percent of all voters are more likely to support a candidate who insists that voters have a right to know who is paying for ads, with only 9% of total voters saying they are less likely to support a candidate who holds that position.

***** Almost two out of three voters (63%) do not believe that the anonymous groups running ads hold the voters best interest in mind. This belief is held by 65% of Independent and 70% of Democratic voters.

***** A straight majority of total voters (53%) are less likely to trust a candidate to improve economic conditions if that candidate is supported by anonymous groups.

While these numbers do indicate that the Democrats’ message about secret donors might indeed resonate beyond their base, I’m still skeptical that voters are faithfully connecting their stated beliefs about campaign finance to their choice of candidates in the current election cycle. If most voters were truly less likely (as opposed to just saying they were less likely) to vote for candidates supported by anonymous corporations and donors, they’d probably have more of a problem with GOP candidates like Sharron Angle in Nevada and Ken Buck in Colorado, both of whom have received heavy backing in the form of ads from groups like Crossroads GPS that attack their opponents and are funded by anonymous donors.

The answer seems to be that either voters care about anonymous campaign donors but they care more about other issues, like the economy, or they’re not actually connecting the Crossroads GPS and Chamber ads flooding their states with the “anonymous corporations and wealthy donors” they say they distrust.

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