Business

Most Say That Presidential Candidates Should Refuse Lobbyist Money

Majority says that Hillary Clinton should refuse

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- The issue of accepting campaign contributions from Washington lobbyists has become a significant part of the current campaign strategy of Democratic candidates John Edwards and Barack Obama. Both have stated that they will not accept such contributions -- and both have criticized frontrunner Hillary Clinton for not taking the same pledge. As Edwards says on his campaign Web site: "John Edwards [has] challenged the entire Democratic Party to reform itself and end the practice of taking campaign money from Washington lobbyists."

New Gallup Poll data suggest that this has the potential to be an effective strategy for Edwards and Obama. It appears that presidential candidates are closely in tune with American public opinion when they decry the influence of lobbyists and vow to avoid taking lobbyist money. Asked about acceptable ways for candidates to raise money, more than three-quarters of Americans say that raising campaign money from contributions made by Washington lobbyists is unacceptable, putting it at the bottom of a list of six ways for raising money. Furthermore, two-thirds of Americans say that candidates who accept money from Washington lobbyists cannot change the way things are done in Washington, and overwhelming majorities say that candidates -- and Hillary Clinton in particular -- should not accept money from lobbyists.

Acceptable Ways to Raise Money

The Aug. 23-26, 2007 Gallup Panel survey asked Americans in several different ways to give their views on the acceptability of presidential candidates accepting money from lobbyists. In all instances, no matter how the question is asked, a large majority of Americans say that it is unacceptable.

One question sequence included in the poll asked Americans to rate how acceptable it would be for presidential candidates to raise money from six different sources. Accepting contributions from Washington lobbyists came in last on the list.

Thinking now about the different ways in which presidential candidates can finance their campaigns, do you think each of the following is an acceptable or unacceptable way for a presidential candidate to raise money for a campaign. How about money from -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

 

2007 Aug 23-26 (sorted by "desirable")

Acceptable

Unacceptable

No opinion

 

%

%

%

Individual contributions made by citizens

93

7

*

The candidate's own savings

92

7

*

Fundraisers who organize and collect large numbers of individual contributions on the candidate's behalf

86

13

1

"PACs," or political action committees

47

47

5

Public financing from the federal government

41

57

2

Contributions made by Washington lobbyists

23

75

1

* = Less than 0.5%

As can be seen, Americans overwhelmingly approve of candidates accepting money from individual citizens or from the candidates' own savings and wealth. There are mixed feelings about accepting money from PACs. A majority also say that public financing from the federal government is unacceptable. And, three-quarters say that accepting money from Washington lobbyists is unacceptable.

Republicans, independents, and Democrats do not differ significantly in their views of which ways are acceptable for presidential candidates to raise money for their campaigns.

The issue of accepting money from lobbyists has been more prominent in the discussions of the Democratic presidential contenders this year -- manifesting itself in particular in the pledges by Edwards and Obama not to accept such contributions. But, rank and file Democrats (26% say it is acceptable) are little different from Republicans (29%) in their views on this matter.

Specifics

A strong majority of Americans say that presidential candidates should refuse to take contributions from Washington lobbyists when they are asked about it directly.

The survey included two variants of questions on this issue. A random half of the sample was asked about a generic presidential candidate refusing to accept lobbyist contributions, while the other random half was asked directly whether or not Hillary Clinton should refuse to accept such contributions.

Eighty percent of Americans say that candidates for president (generically) should refuse to accept campaign contributions from Washington lobbyists; only 18% say it is okay to accept these donations.

Again, there is little difference between Republicans and Democrats on this question. Support for refusing to accept lobbyists' contributions is 75% among Republicans, 80% among Democrats, and 85% among independents.

The other random half sample was asked the question about accepting money from Washington lobbyists but with reference specifically to Clinton. The question included a reminder that two of Clinton's competitors for the Democratic nomination -- Edwards and Obama -- have made public statements that they refuse to accept campaign contributions from Washington lobbyists.

Here, 72% of Americans say that Clinton should refuse to accept money from lobbyists. This issue has become one that Clinton has found necessary to address directly. On Monday, she countered the criticisms from Edwards and Obama by saying that she has a long track record for fighting for different issues, in this case a national healthcare plan, without being influenced by special interests -- despite accepting lobbyist money.

Even Clinton's base supporters -- rank-and-file Democrats -- say the New York Senator should refuse to accept campaign contributions from lobbyists. Sixty-nine percent of Democrats say Clinton should refuse lobbyist contributions -- not much different than the 71% of Republicans and 75% of independents who share this point of view.

More broadly, Americans appear to agree with the argument put forth by Obama and Edwards that candidates who accept money from Washington lobbyists would not be able to change the way things are done in Washington should they be elected president.

Democrats are more likely than Republicans to agree with this notion, suggesting it could be an effective theme for Obama and Edwards to pursue as they try to defeat the heavily favored Clinton for the party's nomination. Sixty-nine percent of Democrats say candidates who accept money from lobbyists would not be able to bring about change in Washington, while just 28% say they would. Among Republicans, 57% say candidates would not bring change to Washington, and 36% say they would. Independents' responses are very similar to Democrats' responses.

Survey Methods

Results for this panel study are based on telephone interviews with 1,001 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Aug. 23-26, 2007. Respondents were drawn from Gallup's household panel, which was originally recruited through random selection methods. The final sample is weighted so it is representative of U.S. adults nationwide. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

For results based on the 500 national adults in the Form A half-sample and 501 national adults in the Form B half-sample, the maximum margins of sampling error are ±5 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 321 Republicans, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±6 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 359 independents, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±6 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 316 Democrats, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±6 percentage points.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/28543/Most-Say-Presidential-Candidates-Should-Refuse-Lobbyist-Money.aspx Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A +1 202.715.3030