Increased campaign spending improves citizen participation in state supreme court elections

Published: Thursday, August 14, 2008 - 13:15 in Psychology & Sociology

One of the most pressing issues on the American political agenda is the influence of private dollars in public institutions. A new study in the American Journal of Political Science reveals that increased campaign spending significantly improves citizen participation in State Supreme Court elections. Melinda Gann Hall, of Michigan State University, and Chris W. Bonneau, of the University of Pittsburgh, used a two-stage modeling strategy to assess whether relatively expensive campaigns improve the chances that citizens will vote in the 260 supreme court elections held from 1990 through 2004 in 18 states.

Results show that increased spending improved participation in these races. Whether measured as the overall spending in each election or in per capita terms, greater spending facilitates voting and money means voters in Supreme Court elections.

"It is reasonable to suppose that by stimulating mass participation and giving voters greater ownership in the outcomes of these races, expensive campaigns significantly strengthen the critical linkage between citizens and courts and enhance the quality of democracy," the authors conclude. These results are inconsistent with popular opinion that competitive and expensive races alienate voters. The study also calls into question whether many of the other negative perceptions of judicial elections really are merited.

Source: Wiley-Blackwell


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