Do Campaign Donors Influence Polarization? Evidence from Public Financing in the American States, with Jeffrey J. Harden

Abstract: Does the source of campaign funds influence legislative polarization? We develop competing theoretical expectations regarding the effects of publicly-financed elections on legislative voting behavior. To test these expectations, we leverage a natural experiment in the New Jersey Assembly in which public financing was made available to a subset of members. We find that public financing exerts substantively negligible effects on roll call voting. We then find a similar result in an examination of polarization with and without public financing across state legislatures. We conclude that, counter to the implied logic of the U.S. Supreme Court, pundits, and reformers, the source of campaign funds exerts minimal influence on polarization.

Published: Forthcoming at Legislative Studies Quarterly. Find a pre-publication version here.

Find the replication materials here.

Find the supplemental appendix here.