Thursday, July 28, 2016

Campaign Finance

No one likes political advertising. Well, TV stations like it. And media buyers. But most of us could live without it or, at least, a lot less of it.

So how about this survey question:
Currently, groups not working with a political candidate may spend unlimited amounts of money on advertisements during a political campaign. Do you favor, oppose, or neither favor nor oppose placing limits on this kind of spending?
About a third of 1,200 respondents in a national survey said they favored this "a great deal." Nearly a third neither favored nor opposed it. A measly 9.4 percent opposed this "a great deal" and another 4.3 percent opposed it "moderately. In other words, the results are strongly skewed in one direction, that of limiting the money spend on ads during a political campaign. Click on the graphic below for a better look.

It's no surprise that there's a strong partisan division on this question and, hell, just about everything these days. Republicans were more likely to oppose it, Democrats were more likely to support it. Even so, let's look at those Republican responses. Among self-identified GOPers, most were more likely to fall in the "neither favor nor oppose" camp (37.1 percent). Only 12.1 percent of Republicans opposed it "a great deal." More fell the other way, with 16.6 percent of Republicans favoring it "a great deal" and another 14.3 percent favoring it "moderately." Let that sink in. Yes, the numbers are nowhere near the Democratic response to this question (for example, 41.2 percent of Dems favor it "a great deal"), but still it's kinda surprising.

I got curious about responses to this campaign finance reform question, so I dug deeper in the data. Warning, statistics ahead. I constructed a model that allows all the various factors to statistically control for one another and see which ones matter, which ones don't. I even created a variable based on whether respondents live in battleground states from 2012 and who may have been exposed to far more political ads than the rest of us.

Let's skip to the meat of the analysis. In my model were the usual socio-demographic variables, like age and income. It also included the state you lived (battleground or not), whether you voted in 2012 or expect to vote in 2016, whether you give money yourself to political campaigns, your political knowledge (based on three questions), how much you follow politics, and of course your party identification and ideology. The winners? Party ID and ideology, by far. For you nerds out there, the 13-variable model included few statistically significant results once Party ID and ideology stole all the variance. Party ID (high is Republican, beta = -.12, p<.001), and Ideology (high is conservative, beta = -.33, p<.001) explained most of the model. A few others emerge. Race (whites more likely to favor limits, beta = .39, p<.01), and an interest in politics (beta = .24, p<.01).

I thought for sure if you lived in a battleground state (Florida, Virginia, etc.) you'd be sick of ads and more likely to support limits. Nope. The regression coefficient is non-significant, even before we enter party ID and ideology. There's simply nuthin there. I was a bit surprised at the lack of a relationship with having voted, or expecting to vote. No idea why as to my surprise, but I kinda guessed voters may be a little more forgiving of political ads than those who don't vote and might prefer the whole election thing would simply go away.

Methodological Details

The "battleground" states based on political advertising spending in 2012 were: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Spending in these states far outstripped that of others.

The survey and data are available here. Do your own analysis.

Final Model Results (beta weight in parentheses, * if statistically significant)

Age (-.03)
Race (.09*)
Sex (.05)
Income (.00)
Education (.05)
State (.02)
Voted 12 (-.03)
Will Vote 16 (.04)
Give $ (.00)
Party ID (-.13*)
Ideology (-.20*)
Political Knowledge (-.00)
Political Interest (.11*)

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