Government Reform

Numerous government reforms have been proposed that seek to counter potential distortions to the democratic process by:

  • constraining the role of money in the campaigns and making it more transparent
  • limiting lobbying by recently retired government officials
  • making the process of House redistricting more representative of the partisan balance of a state
  • having Congressional term limits
  • making it more possible for independent and third-party candidates to compete in elections.

Proposals with bipartisan support discussed below:

    • Passing a Constitutional amendment to effectively overturn Citizens United v FEC
    • Creating tax credits for small donations to campaigns
    • Prohibiting candidates from direct person-to-person fundraising
    • Increasing disclosure requirements for campaign contributions
    • Passing a Constitutional amendment to create term limits for Members of Congress

Proposals discussed below:

  • Ending the current prohibition on tax-exempt nonprofits endorsing or contributing to political campaigns
  • Extending the waiting period after which former government officials can become lobbyists
  • Moving control of Congressional redistricting from state legislatures to an independent commission
  • Creating multi-member districts that better reflect the state’s partisan distribution
  • Using ranked choice voting in federal elections

Proposals with bipartisan support discussed below:

  • Making it easier for independent and third-party candidates to compete in Congressional elections, and participate in Presidential debates
  • The government matching six-to-one small donations to Senate campaigns that agree to only take small donations
  • Requiring all campaigns to get the address and CVV code of all credit card donors

CONSTRAINING THE ROLE OF MONEY IN POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS

Constitutional Amendment to Allow Regulation

To address this concern, Members of the 115th Congress introduced House Joint Resolution 113, which would effectively reverse the Citizens United decision through a Constitutional amendment which would give Congress the power to place regulations on campaign donations.

Respondents were first introduced to this topic, by being told that in order for Congress to limit all forms of campaign‐related donations, a new Constitutional amendment would be required to override the Supreme Court’s past decisions on this subject, including “Citizens United”, and prevent the courts from striking down campaign finance laws in the future.

They were presented a proposed amendment, which includes two parts.  The first part was presented as follows:

The proposed Constitutional amendment would say Congress and the states may regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others seeking to influence elections.

Presented with an argument in favor of this part of the amendment, a large bipartisan majority found it convincing. The argument against did substantially worse, with less than half finding it convincing. However, a majority of Republicans found it convincing.

When they were asked how acceptable this part of the constitutional amendment would be to them along a 0-10 scale, with 5 being “just tolerable”, it was found at least tolerable (5-10) by 79%, including 72% of Republicans and 87% of Democrats. 

Respondents were then introduced to the second part of the proposed constitutional amendment which said that:

… in writing campaign finance laws, Congress would have the right to treat corporations and other organizations differently from ‘natural persons.’ This would allow Congress to restrict or even prohibit corporations and other organizations from spending money to influence elections.

The argument in favor of the second part of the amendment was found convincing by a large bipartisan majority. The argument against, on the other hand, was not as well‐received, with less than half of all groups finding it convincing.

When they were asked how acceptable they found this part of the constitutional amendment along a 0-10 scale, 79% found it at least tolerable (5-10), including 73% of Republicans and 86% of Democrats. 

In the end, respondents were asked whether their Member of Congress should vote in favor or against this two‐ part constitutional amendment. A clear bipartisan majority of 75% came out in favor, including 66% of Republicans and 85% of Democrats.

Response Without Undergoing Policymaking Simulation 
When a separate sample was told the results of the survey above, 87% said they agreed with the majority position, including 82% of Republicans and 93% of Democrats. (PPC 2018)

Related Standard Polls   
A large bipartisan majority has expressed support for the broad principle of placing limits on political spending: 

  • Asked whether they favor “placing limits on political campaign spending” 69% said that they do (Republicans 69%, Democrats 71%).  A tiny 7-8% (in all categories) was opposed.  A substantial 21-23% said they neither favored or opposed it (2016 American National Election Survey Time Series) 

A large bipartisan majority has favored placing limits on campaign spending by corporations, but Republicans were less supportive than Democrats:

  • Asked to choose between three options related to corporate spending,  63% chose “corporations should be limited in the amount of money they can spend” (39%, Republicans 37%, Democrats 39%) or “corporations should not be allowed to spend money on political campaigns at all” (24%, Republicans 19%, Democrats 27%). Just 37% chose “corporations should be allowed to spend as much money as they want” (Republicans 44%, Democrats 35%, independents 29%)(November 2015, AP-NORC)

A slightly smaller bipartisan majority has expressed support for a constitutional amendment to allow more limits on campaign spending:

  • 57% favored “a constitutional amendment that allows Congress and state governments to regulate campaign contributions to and spending by candidates for office.” (Republicans 54%, Democrats 59%),  35-41% were opposed and 5-9% did not provide an answer (August 2014, Reason and Rupe).

Views have been divided on whether campaign contributions are a form of free speech:

  • 51% said that they consider “consider money given to political candidates to be a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution”while 49% said they do not.  For Republicans, 54% said they do consider it a form of free speech, while 54% of Democrats said they do not. (2015, AP-NORC).

 Pluralities to modest majorities have favored placing limits on Super PACs, but large numbers did not have an opinion either way, suggesting that respondents were not well informed on the issue. 

  • A poll sought to reference Super PACs, saying that “Currently, groups not working with a political candidate may spend unlimited amounts of money on advertisements during a political campaign”. They then asked respondents whether they favor “placing limits on this kind of spending.”  In all cases, the largest share favored doing so (50%, Republicans 44%, Democrats 57%), with just 13-20% opposed.  Relatively large numbers (30-36%) chose “neither favor or oppose”. (2016, American National Election Survey)
  • Another poll referred to the fact that “some groups are allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to support a candidate as long as they do not coordinate with the candidate’s campaign.”  The largest share called this unacceptable (overall 51%, Republicans 44%, Democrats 57%), 29-37% found it acceptable, and 14-19% found it neither acceptable or unacceptable. (November 2015, AP-NORC)

Status of Legislation
The proposal to amend the Constitution and give Congress more powers to regulate campaign finance was introduced as H.J. Res 113 by Rep. Adam Schiff (D) in the 115th Congress. It was reintroduced in the 116th Congress by the same sponsor (H.J. Res 57). It is also in H.J. Res 2 by Rep. Ted Deutch (D). 

The proposal is also part of the larger government reform bill For the People Act, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D) (S. 1) Rep. John Sarbanes (D) (H.R. 1) in the 117th Congress. This bill passed the House, with all votes in favor coming from Democrats and all votes against from Republicans. The bill has yet to be taken up in the Senate. 

Countering Large Campaign Donors

Respondents were first presented the idea behind the proposal, that “by reducing the cost of making donations, more citizens will make donations and small donors will make somewhat larger donations, thus increasing the total amount coming from small donors.” 

They were then introduced to the specific proposal:

When a citizen contributes up to $50 to a specific candidate, half of the contribution would be refundable in the form of a tax credit. This would be limited to small donors, which would be people whose donations to that candidate are no more than $300.

The argument in favor was found convincing by a large, bipartisan majority (70%), including two‐thirds of Republicans and three‐fourths of Democrats.

The argument against was found convincing by a similarly large bipartisan majority (68%), including seven‐in‐ten Republicans and two‐thirds of Democrats.

Asked for their final recommendation, six in ten recommended that their Member of Congress vote in favor of this proposal. For Republicans, a more modest majority was in favor (53%), while among Democrats, two‐thirds recommended the proposal.

Response Without Undergoing Policymaking Simulation
When a separate sample was told the results of the survey above, 64% said they agreed with the majority position, including 59% of Republicans and 70% of Democrats. (PPC 2018)

Status of Legislation 
The proposal to encourage small donations by giving tax credits to campaign donations up to $50, and no more than $300 in total, was in the Fair Elections Now Act sponsored by Sen. Richard Durbin (D) (S. 1538 in the 114th Congress and S. 1640 in the 115th), and the Government by the People Act by Rep. John Sarbanes (D) (H.R. 20 in the 113th, 114th and 115th Congress). None of the bills made it out of committee. This proposal is not currently part of any active pieces of legislation.

Respondents were introduced to the proposal as follows:

The idea is to create a program that provides financial support to US Senate candidates who agree to limit their fundraising to small donors. Here is how it would work:

A candidate who chooses to participate must:

  • agree not to take donations of more than $150 from any donor for an election.
  • demonstrate their viability as a candidate by raising a substantial number of small donations from in‐state donors.

The candidate would then receive additional funds as follows:

  • a six‐to‐one match of each small donation (e.g. if someone were to make a donation of $100, the candidate would receive an additional $600)
  • a grant and credits for media ads, totaling approximately $1‐$14 million, depending on the population of their state

The program would be funded by a new fee paid by companies who do large contract work for the federal government. They would be charged a fee of 0.5% on the amount of each contract over $10 million.

When asked to evaluate pro and con arguments, the argument in favor was found convincing by an overwhelming and bipartisan majority. The argument against did much less well with only a slight majority of 52% finding it convincing, including a majority of Republicans but just under half of Democrats.

Ultimately, two-thirds supported their Member of Congress voting in support of the proposal, including 58% of Republicans and 73% of Democrats.

Respondents also rated the proposal on a 0-10 scale, with 5 being “just tolerable”. It was found at least tolerable (5-10) by 78%, including 71% of Republicans and 83% of Democrats. 

Response Without Undergoing Policymaking Simulation
When a separate sample was told the results of the survey above, 53% said they agreed with the majority position, including 62% of Democrats and 41% of Republicans. The survey was fielded January 5th through February 5th and March 9th through 23rd, 2018

Related Standard Polls
When presented a brief summary of the proposals to have the government match six-to-one small campaign contributions, and provide refundable tax credits for small contributions, a large bipartisan majority has been in favor: 

  • Respondents were presented a limited description of some of the key elements of the Government By the People Act, which was named in the poll question. The 6-to-1 matching of contributions up to $150 was mentioned, with the source of the funds was described as a “public fund”, as was the refundable tax credit proposal for donations up to $25. The benefit that “candidates could run for Congress without needing to raise large campaign contributions” was mentioned, without any countervailing considerations. This elicited a bipartisan majority in favor (70%), including 69% of Republicans and 71% of Democrats. (April 2014, Democracy Corps and Public Campaign Action Fund) 

However, when presented the principle for matching small donations against the principle of campaigns simply raising and spending donations, the latter has been endorsed by majorities or pluralities overall and for both parties: 

  • Respondents were presented three general options for how campaigns should be financed:
  • The idea that “campaigns should raise and spend money using donations” was chosen by the largest share of respondents (overall 57%, Republicans 69%, Democrats 46%).
  • The idea that “ campaigns should primarily use donations, but the federal government should match small donations to increase impact” was chosen by the smallest shares (overall 17%, Republicans 12%, Democrats 21%).
  • The other option, that “the federal government should provide a set amount of money that each candidate can spend” was chosen by 27% (Republicans 19%, Democrats 33%). (2015, AP-NORC)

Status of Proposed Legislation 
The proposal to have the government match six-to-one all Senate campaign donations under $150, funded by a small fee on government contractors, was in the Fair Elections Now Act sponsored by Sen. Richard Durbin (D) (S. 1538 in the 114th Congress and S. 1640 in the 115th). It never made it out of committee.

A similar provision, which would match six-to-one donations for Congressional campaigns up to $200, funded by new fees on federal civil and criminal penalties, is in the larger government reform bill For the People Act (H.R. 1), sponsored by Rep. John Sarbanes (D) in the 116th Congress. This bill passed the House, with all votes in favor coming from Democrats and all votes against from Republicans. It has yet to be taken up in the Senate.

To address this concern, Members of Congress have introduced legislation, continually since 2011, that would end the program, and redirect the funds to other purposes. The proposal presented to respondents was based on H.R. 133 from the 115th Congress. 

Respondents were first presented the following information about the current federal program to fund presidential campaigns:

As you may know, in the 1970’s, the federal government established a program to make presidential campaigns less dependent on private contributions by providing them government funds. Presidential campaigns receive these funds, though, only if they agree to limit the total amount of money they spend in their campaign, and the amount of money they get from private sources. The program is funded by taxpayers, who check a box on their IRS tax forms directing $3 to the fund for this purpose. Contributing to the fund does not increase an individual’s taxes or reduce any refund they are owed.

For some time, all major presidential candidates adhered to the spending limits and received the funding. With time, though, some candidates found they could raise so much more money through private sources that they chose not to accept the limits on their spending, even though they would have to forego the public funds. By the 2016 election, all of the major candidates chose to exceed the spending limits, foregoing the public funds. Thus, the fund has been rarely used and now has nearly $300 million available.

There were then presented the proposal for ending this program::

The legislation proposes to end the Federal program providing public support for presidential campaigns. The $3 check off on taxpayers’ IRS forms would be ended and the unused funds would be directed to pediatric research or deficit reduction.

The argument in favor did very well with a large bipartisan majority finding it convincing. The argument against was found convincing by a substantial albeit smaller majority of 60%.  Partisan differences were strong with slightly less than half of Republicans finding it convincing compared to seven in ten Democrats.

In the end, asked how their Member of Congress should vote, two‐thirds said they should vote in favor of eliminating the program for public financing of presidential campaigns, including 79% of Republicans and 53% of Democrats.

Response Without Undergoing Policymaking Simulation
When a separate sample was told the results of the survey above, 72% said they agreed with the majority position, including 74% of Republicans and 71% of Democrats. (PPC 2018)

Related Standard Polls
Polls that ask about public financing of campaigns elicit seemingly discrepant results, suggesting that most citizens have not thought through the issue. The different results could also be caused by the above proposal’s provision to use leftover public money from the Presidential campaign fund for pediatric research or deficit reduction:

  • Views were divided along party lines when asked about “establishing a new campaign finance system where federal campaigns are funded by the government and all contributions from individuals and private groups banned.” Fifty percent approved of this (44% disapproved), including 61% of Democrats and 40% of Republicans (55% disapproved). (Gallup 2013).

When presented with three general options for how campaigns should be financed, the second most popular option was government-only funding:

  • The idea that “the federal government should provide a set amount of money that each candidate can spend” was chosen by just 27% (Republicans 19%, Democrats 33%). 
  • The idea that “campaigns should raise and spend money using donations” was chosen by the largest share of respondents (overall 57%, Republicans 67%, Democrats 46%). 
  • And the idea that “campaigns should primarily use donations, but the federal government should match small donations to increase impact” was the least popular, chosen by just 17% (Republicans 12%, Democrats 21%). (2015, AP-NORC)

Status of Legislation
The proposal to eliminate public financing of Presidential campaigns, funded by $3 check-offs on tax returns, and redirect the leftover funds to pediatric research or deficit reduction, was in H.R. 133, sponsored by Rep. Tom Cole (R) in the 115th Congress, which did not make it out of committee. 

Rep. Tom Cole reintroduced the same legislation in the 116th Congress (H.R. 290). The same proposal is also in H.R. 2234 in the 116th Congress, sponsored by Rep. Rodney Davis (R), which has yet to make it out of committee. 

A similar proposal, which would instead use the leftover funds to purchase protective equipment for healthcare workers, is in S. 3586, sponsored by Sen. Joni Ernst (R) and H.R. 6500, sponsored by Rep. Mike Gallagher (R) in the 116th Congress. Neither bill has yet to make it out of committee.

Increase Campaign Financing Disclosure Requirements

Respondents were presented a proposal to require the FEC to publicly disclose donors of campaign-related TV or radio ads, from H.R. 1439 and the Disclose Act (H.R. 1134, S. 3150) from the 115th Congress. They were also presented two other proposals from the Disclose Act, which would increase disclosure requirements for campaign-related donations of at least $10,000, as well as for corporations, unions and other groups making campaign-related expenditures. 

Respondents were first presented the broader idea of increasing disclosure requirements for political donations as follows:

…(an) idea for reducing or counterbalancing the influence of big donors is to require that donations to candidates and political causes be publicly disclosed or made more transparent.

While many forms of campaign‐related donations and spending are required to be publicly disclosed, there are donations that can be made anonymously to certain organizations that can support candidates and political causes. Critics of this kind of giving call it ‘dark money’ because it is anonymous.

Until recently, the amount that could be donated to such organizations was limited, but with the U.S. Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision, these limits were removed as an interference with free speech. Since then, the amount of such anonymous donations has gone up dramatically.

There are a number of proposals for requiring that such donations be publicly disclosed. There is also a debate about whether there should be greater public disclosure of campaign‐related donations.

Before being presented specific proposals for addressing this issue, respondents were first presented two general arguments in favor of and two general arguments against increasing disclosure of campaign‐related contributions and activities.

The arguments in favor of greater disclosure did very well with more than 8 in 10 respondents finding both pro arguments convincing.

Respondents were less convinced by arguments opposed to increasing disclosures. One was found convincing by a bare majority, while the other was found convincing by just four in ten. Substantially more Republicans found them convincing then Democrats.

Disclosing Names of Large Donors for Campaign‐Related Efforts
Turning to the specific reform proposals for greater disclosure, respondents were told:

Currently, all donations made directly to campaigns must be made public, but there is no requirement for a variety of organizations that spend money on campaign‐related efforts to disclose the names of their donors and the amounts donated.

They then evaluated a proposal requiring that when donors make a contribution of at least $10,000 they must immediately register with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and have their name and the amount of the donations listed on the Commission’s website.  This proposal is based on a provision from the Disclose Act.

An overwhelming and bipartisan majority said they would recommend that their Member vote in favor of the proposal.  Democrats were somewhat more likely to take this position (88%) than Republicans (77%).

There was substantial optimism that this measure would be effective.  Asked, “How effective do you think this proposal, if enacted, would likely be in reducing or counterbalancing the influence of big campaign donors,” 65% said they thought it would be effective (very 19%).  Democrats were more likely to believe it would be effective (73%, very 23%) than Republicans (58%, very 15%).

Independent Campaign‐Related Activity By Corporations, Unions and Other Groups
Respondents were told that, “currently, when corporations, unions, and other groups spend money on their own campaign‐related activity, such as running a TV ad that is supportive of a candidate, they do not have to report it.”  They were then presented a proposal requiring these groups to:

  •   report campaign‐related spending to their shareholders and members;
  •   make such information available to the public on their websites; and
  •   report such information to the FEC.

This proposal is also based on a provision from the Disclose Act.

An overwhelmingly bipartisan majority (85%) recommended that their Member of Congress vote favorably on this proposal.  Minimal partisan differences existed, with 83% of Republicans recommending a favorable vote and 88% of Democrats.

Here too there was optimism that this measure would be effective. Two thirds (65%) said they thought it would be effective (very 20%). Democrats were slightly more likely to believe it would be effective (69%, very 22%) than Republicans (63%, very 21%).

Donors Who Support Independent TV and Radio Ads
Respondents were informed that individuals spending their own money on campaign‐related TV or radio ads are not required to report that information. They were then presented a proposal saying that, “the Federal Communications Commission would require the public disclosure of the names of significant donors in paying for TV or radio ads in support of candidates or related to controversial public issues.” This proposal is based on H.R. 1134 and H.R. 1439.

Eight in ten (81%) recommended that their Member of Congress vote in favor of this proposal, including 74% of Republicans and 89% of Democrats. 

Once again, they were optimistic about how effective this would be, with 62% answering that it would effective (very 18%). Republicans were less likely to believe the proposal would be effective (54%, very 11%) than Democrats (71%, very 24%).

Disclosure of Campaign Spending by Government Contractors
Respondents were also presented an alternative proposal that could be enacted by the President if Congress failed to pass the former disclosure proposals. Under this proposal, the “President could require federal contractors to publicly disclose their donations to groups that spend money on campaign‐related activities.” This was based on an Executive Order that President Obama proposed at one point but never enacted.

An overwhelmingly bipartisan majority (85%) recommended their Member of Congress vote in favor of this proposal, including 84% of Republicans and 89% of Democrats.

Over six in ten (63%) said they thought it would be effective (very 18%).

Response Without Undergoing Policymaking Simulation
When a separate sample was told the results of the survey above, 89% agreed with the majority position that all individuals or organizations that donate or receive up to $10,000 in campaign-related donations should promptly report it to the FEC, including 86% of Republicans and 93% of Democrats. 

Ninety three percent agreed with the majority position that corporations, unions, and other groups, when spending money on campaign-related activity, need to report this spending to their shareholders and members, the public and the FEC, including 92% of Republicans and 94% of Democrats. 

Ninety two percent agreed with the majority position that the FEC should be required to disclose the names of significant donors paying for TV or radio ads in support of candidates or public issues, including 91% of Republicans and 93% of Democrats. (PPC 2018)

Related Standard Polls
Standard polls have found remarkably similar and consistent levels of bipartisan support, from 74-80%, for increasing disclosure requirements for campaign-related spending:

  • Asked whether “all groups that raise and spend unlimited money to support candidates should be required to publicly disclose their contributors,” 76% said they should publicly disclose them (24% okay to remain private), including 78% of Republicans and 79% of Democrats. (November 2015, AP-NORC)
  • Presented with the idea of requiring political campaign ads on social media to disclose their donors, 78% were in favor, including 80% of Republicans and 78% of Democrats. (October 2017, Marist)
  • Asked whether disclosure requirements should apply to “groups not affiliated with a candidate that spend money during political campaigns,” 75% said they should publicly disclose their donors, including 76% of both Republicans and Democrats. (May 2015, CBS News/New York Times)

Status of Proposed Legislation
The proposal to require the FEC to publicly disclose donors of campaign-related TV or radio ads was in H.R. 1439, sponsored by Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D) in the 115th Congress, which never made it out of committee.

The proposals to increase disclosure requirements for: campaign-related donations of at least $10,000; donations to campaign-related TV or radio ads; and campaign-related spending by corporations, unions and other groups, have been included in the Disclose Act since 2012, currently sponsored by Rep. David Cicilline (D) (H.R. 2977) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D) (S. 11147) in the 116th Congress. The bills have not yet made it out of committee. 

The above proposals are also part of the larger government reform bill For the People Act, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D) (S. 1) Rep. John Sarbanes (D) (H.R. 1) in the 117th Congress, including the proposal to require government contractors to disclose their campaign contributions. This bill has passed the House, with all votes in favor coming from Democrats and all votes against from Republicans.

  • Require all individuals or organizations that donate or receive at least $10,000 in campaign-related donations to register with the FEC and be publicly listed

  • Require corporations, unions, and other groups, when spending money on campaign-related activities to immediately release this to their shareholders and members, the public and the FEC

  • Require the FEC to publicly disclose the names of significant donors paying for TV or radio ads in support of candidates or related to controversial public issues

  • Have the President require federal contractors to disclose their donations to campaign-related activities

To address this concern, Members of Congress have introduced legislation, the Stop Foreign Donations Affecting Our Elections Act (H.R. 1341, S. 1660), which would increase requirements for credit card donations. 

Respondents were introduced to the proposal as a way to address the concern of  illegal online donations to political campaigns by foreigners, as follows:

Currently, there is a bill in Congress that proponents say will reduce the possibility of illegal online donations to Federal campaigns made by foreigners, in excess of legal limits, or with stolen credit cards. Opponents say there is no evidence these are real problems and that the proposed solutions discourage people from making donations.

They were informed that, “it is illegal for foreign sources—individuals or organizations—to make contributions to US campaigns.  However, Americans living abroad may make such donations.”

Respondents were then presented two proposals related to credit‐card donations.  They first evaluated each one separately and then the bill as a whole.

The first proposal requires, “that donors to Federal campaigns who make online credit card donations from abroad are not only US citizens, but also registered voters and that they provide their US voting address.”

The argument in favor of the proposal did substantially better than the argument against. The pro argument was found convincing by 82%, and partisan responses were practically the same. The counter argument was found convincing by less than half, overall and among both Republicans and Democrats.

Respondents were then presented with the full details of the proposal and asked to rate its acceptability on a 0-10 scale, with 5 being “just tolerable”, 86% found it at least tolerable (5-10), including 88% of Republicans and 86% of Democrats.

Turning to the second proposal, respondents were first informed that: “Currently, when campaigns receive donations of $50 or more, they are required to get the donor’s address, but this is not required if donations are under $50.”

They were then presented the proposal that would:

...require that when campaigns get online credit card donations:

  • in all cases, including those under $50, they must get and report the donor’s address,
  • they must also always get the CVV code on the credit card.

For the argument in favor of this proposal, a large bipartisan majority found it convincing, with no significant partisan differences.Presented a counter argument, less than half  found it convincing. Republicans were less likely to find it convincing (41%) than Democrats who were more divided (48%).

Respondents were then given another set of arguments focusing on the potential for the use of stolen credit cards. The pro argument was found convincing by an overwhelming 86%, with the same level of support from Republicans and Democrats. The counter argument found more division, with 52% finding it convincing. Republicans were fairly evenly divided with Democrats leaning toward being convinced (56%).

The details of the bill as a whole were presented and respondents were asked to rate its acceptability on a 0-10 scale. It was found at least tolerable (5-10) by 84%, including 86% of Republicans and 84% of Democrats.

Respondents were then presented with “broader arguments” for and against the bill as a whole. The first argument was against the bill and was found convincing by 50% of respondents. There

were slight partisan differences, with fewer Republicans finding it convincing (48%) than Democrats (53%). Presented with a counter argument in favor of the bill, a large bipartisan majority (82%) found it convincing.

Respondents were then presented all of the proposals in the bill at once, saying that it would require that:

  • when campaigns get online credit card donations, in all cases, including those under $50, they must get and report the donor’s address;
  • campaigns must also get from online credit card donations the CVV code on the credit card;
  • donors who make online credit card donations from abroad be a registered voter in the US and provide their US voting address.

Finally, they were asked whether they would recommend their Member of Congress vote in favor of or against the bill.  Eight in ten respondents (79%) recommended that their Member of Congress vote in favor. Republicans were more likely to take this position (85%) than Democrats (77%).

Status of Legislation
The proposal to increase credit card donation requirements was in the Stop Foreign Donations Affecting Our Elections Act, sponsored by Rep. Paul Gosar (R) (H.R. 1341) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) (S. 1660) in the 115th Congress. This bill did not make it out of committee, and was recently reintroduced by Rep. Paul Gosar (H.R. 1422) in the 116th Congress. 

This proposal is also included in the larger government reform bill For the People Act (H.R. 1), sponsored by Rep. John Sarbanes (D) in the 116th Congress. That bill passed the House, with all votes in favor coming from Democrats and all votes against from Republicans. It has yet to be taken up in the Senate.

Limiting Direct Fundraising

Respondents were informed that there was a proposal, “that seeks to reduce the influence of big donors on Members of Congress” and introduced to the proposal:

Members of Congress would be prohibited from personally asking a donor for money at any time. It allows them to attend and speak at fundraising events, but prohibits direct one‐on‐one appeals for donations.

A large bipartisan majority (71%) found convincing the argument in favor of this proposal. However, nearly as many (67%) found the argument against it convincing, with this same percentage among Republicans and Democrats.

Finally, a majority (55%) recommended that their Member of Congress vote in favor of this proposal.  For Republicans this was a bare majority (51%), while Democrats it was nearly six in ten (58%).  

Asked to rate the proposal’s acceptability along a 0-10 scale, 71% found it at least tolerable (5-10), including 68% of Republicans and 73% of Democrats.

Status of Legislation
The proposal to prohibit candidates from direct person-to-person fundraising was in the Stop Act sponsored by Rep. Boyle (D) (H.R. 528) in the 115th Congress, which did not make it out of committee. The proposal is not currently in any active legislation.

Limiting Political Activity by Non-Profits

To address this concern, Members of Congress introduced legislation that would repeal the Johnson Amendment. The proposal presented to respondents was based on H.R. 172 from the 115th Congress. 

To introduce respondents to this issue, they were first informed about the Johnson Amendment, as follows:

As you may know, under current law, there are certain organizations that do not have to pay taxes, such as religious institutions (churches, synagogues, or mosques), universities, foundations or other charities.

However, to keep this tax‐exempt status they cannot endorse political candidates or participate in political campaigns.

They were told that there is a bill in Congress which would reverse this law, “allowing tax‐exempt organizations to endorse political candidates and provide them money and other support, while keeping the organization’s tax‐exempt status.”

They then evaluated three pairs of arguments for and against this proposal. The con arguments were found convincing by significantly larger shares (73 - 82%) than the pro arguments (46 - 58%). However, among Republicans, the pro and con arguments were found convincing by similar majorities.

Finally, an overwhelming majority of 79% opposed the proposal to allow churches and other non-profit organizations to endorse political candidates and provide them money and other support.  This included 71% of Republicans as well as 88% of Democrats.  Most (55%) said it is ‘very important’ to keep the current law.

Response Without Undergoing Policymaking Simulation
When a separate sample was told the results of the survey above, 82% said they agreed with the majority position, including 76% of Republicans and 89% of Democrats. (PPC 2018)

Status of Legislation
The proposal to repeal the 1954 Johnson Amendment -- which prohibits all non-profits receiving tax deductions from funding or publicly endorsing political candidates -- was based on H.R. 172 by Rep. Walter Jones (R) in the 115th Congress. It did not make it out of committee. This proposal is not currently in any active legislation.

LIMITING LOBBYING BY FORMER GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS

Extend the period government officials must wait after leaving office before they can work as lobbyists:

To address this concern, restrictions were put in place that required former government officials to wait a certain number of years before they could become lobbyists. 

Recently, Members of Congress have sought to increase that waiting period. During the 115th Congress, several proposals on Lobbying were introduced. The proposal to increase the waiting period for former Members of Congress from two to five years was based on a provision in H.R. 383, H.R. 796, H.R. 346, H.R. 1934 , H.R. 1951 and S. 522. 

The proposal to increase the waiting period for former senior Executive Branch officials from 1-2 years to five years was based on a provision in H.R. 796, H.R. 484 and H.R. 1934. 

The proposal to increase the waiting period for former Congressional staffers from one year to two years was based on a provision in H.R. 383.

Respondents were first introduced to this concern of former government officials becoming lobbyists:

Because former Members of Congress and Executive Branch officials (such as those in the Department of Defense or the US Treasury) are very familiar with how government works and have strong personal connections throughout government, they can often work as lobbyists after they leave office.

Currently, there are some limits on how soon a former government official can lobby the government after leaving office.

The current rules around former government officials lobbying after they leave the government were explained to respondents:

Under current law, before they can lobby Congress:

  • former House members must wait one year
  • former Senators must wait two years
  • senior Congressional staffers in both houses must wait one year

In addition, senior Executive Branch officials are prohibited from lobbying the agency they were part of for 1‐2 years, depending on how senior they were.

They were informed that there are proposals in Congress that would, “extend the period former Members of Congress and Executive Branch officials must wait after they leave office before they can work as lobbyists.”

Arguments for and against extending the prohibition on lobbying were then evaluated. The arguments in favor were found convincing by large bipartisan majorities, while the arguments against were not found convincing by any majority, overall or in either party.

They were then presented with a set of proposals:

  • extend the period former Members of Congress must wait before working as a lobbyist from 1‐2 years to five years; or go further and prohibit former Members of Congress from working as a lobbyist for the rest of their life.
  • extend the period a senior Congressional staffer would have to wait before working as a lobbyist from the current one year to two years
  • extend the period a senior Executive Branch official would have to wait before lobbying the agency they worked for from 1‐2 years to five years

Asked for their final recommendation, large bipartisan majorities were in favor of extending all prohibitions on lobbying. 

Three quarters approved extending the waiting period for former Members of Congress from two years after leaving office to five years, including 80% of Republicans and 73% of Democrats.

Response Without Undergoing Policymaking Simulation
When a separate sample was told the results of the survey above, 89% said they agreed with the majority position to extend the period after leaving office that government officials are prohibited from lobbying for former Members of Congress from the current two years to five years, including 89% of Republicans and 90% of Democrats. 

Eighty seven percent agreed with the majority position to extend the lobbying restriction for former Congressional staffers from the current one year to two years, including 87% of Republicans and 88% of Democrats. 

Eighty seven percent agreed with the majority position to extend the lobbying restriction for former senior Executive Branch officials from the current 1-2 years to five years, including 87% of Republicans and Democrats. (PPC 2018)

Related Standard Polls
Bipartisan majorities have supported putting restrictions on lobbying by former government officials. 

  • Asked whether they thought former Members of Congress “should not be permitted to become lobbyists once they leave office,” implying a permanent ban, 59% were in favor, including 60% of Republicans and 56% of Democrats. (September 2012, CBS News)
  • Presented with a proposal to “Clean up lobbyists, and prevent government staff from cashing in on their connections in the private sector by closing the revolving door between the government and lobbying firms,” without any countervailing frame, 81% were in favor, including 75% of Republicans and 88% of Democrats. (November 2012, Democracy Corps) 

Status of Legislation 
The proposal to increase the waiting period for former Members of Congress from two to five years was in H.R. 383 by Rep. Bill Posey (R), H.R. 796 by Rep. Ron DeSantis (R), H.R. 346 by Rep. Dave Trott (R), H.R. 1934 by Rep. Mike Gallagher (R), H.R. 1951 by Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D) and S. 522 by Sen. Jon Tester (D) in the 115th Congress. This proposal is in the Public Service Integrity Act (H.R. 414) by Rep. Posey (R) and the Cleaning up Washington Act (S. 751) by Sen. Tester (D) in the 117th Congress, neither of which have made it out of committee.

Response Without Undergoing Policymaking Simulation
When a separate sample was told the results of the survey above, 89% said they agreed with the majority position to extend the period after leaving office that government officials are prohibited from lobbying for former Members of Congress from the current two years to five years, including 89% of Republicans and 90% of Democrats. 

Eighty seven percent agreed with the majority position to extend the lobbying restriction for former Congressional staffers from the current one year to two years, including 87% of Republicans and 88% of Democrats. 

Eighty seven percent agreed with the majority position to extend the lobbying restriction for former senior Executive Branch officials from the current 1-2 years to five years, including 87% of Republicans and Democrats. (PPC 2018)

Related Standard Polls
Bipartisan majorities have supported putting restrictions on lobbying by former government officials. 

  • Asked whether they thought former Members of Congress “should not be permitted to become lobbyists once they leave office,” implying a permanent ban, 59% were in favor, including 60% of Republicans and 56% of Democrats. (September 2012, CBS News)
  • Presented with a proposal to “Clean up lobbyists, and prevent government staff from cashing in on their connections in the private sector by closing the revolving door between the government and lobbying firms,” without any countervailing frame, 81% were in favor, including 75% of Republicans and 88% of Democrats. (November 2012, Democracy Corps) 

Status of Legislation 

The proposal to increase the waiting period for former Congressional staffers from one year to two years was in H.R. 383 by Rep. Bill Posey (R) in the 115th Congress, which did not make it out of committee. This proposal was reintroduced in the 117th Congress by the same sponsor (H.R. 414), which has not yet made it out of committee.

Response Without Undergoing Policymaking Simulation
When a separate sample was told the results of the survey above, 89% said they agreed with the majority position to extend the period after leaving office that government officials are prohibited from lobbying for former Members of Congress from the current two years to five years, including 89% of Republicans and 90% of Democrats. 

Eighty seven percent agreed with the majority position to extend the lobbying restriction for former Congressional staffers from the current one year to two years, including 87% of Republicans and 88% of Democrats. 

Eighty seven percent agreed with the majority position to extend the lobbying restriction for former senior Executive Branch officials from the current 1-2 years to five years, including 87% of Republicans and Democrats. (PPC 2018)

Related Standard Polls
Bipartisan majorities have supported putting restrictions on lobbying by former government officials. 

  • Asked whether they thought former Members of Congress “should not be permitted to become lobbyists once they leave office,” implying a permanent ban, 59% were in favor, including 60% of Republicans and 56% of Democrats. (September 2012, CBS News)
  • Presented with a proposal to “Clean up lobbyists, and prevent government staff from cashing in on their connections in the private sector by closing the revolving door between the government and lobbying firms,” without any countervailing frame, 81% were in favor, including 75% of Republicans and 88% of Democrats. (November 2012, Democracy Corps) 

Status of Legislation 
The proposal to increase the waiting period for former senior Executive Branch officials from 1-2 years to five years was based on H.R. 796 by Rep. Ron DeSantis, H.R. 484 by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D) and H.R. 1934 by Rep. Mike Gallagher (R) in the 115th Congress. None of these bills made it out of committee. In the 117th Congress, this proposal is in the Cleaning up Washington Act (S. 751) by Sen. Jon Tester (D), which has not yet made it out of committee.

Respondents were given a briefing about the current laws and policies around lobbying for foreign governments. They were told:

Americans can act as lobbyists for foreign governments, provided they register and report their activities to the US government.

Former senior Executive Branch officials are prohibited from lobbying their former agency for 1‐2 years after they leave office, whether for a foreign or domestic client, but face no restrictions after that time period.

The Trump administration has required that to be part of the current administration Executive Branch officials must pledge never to lobby for a foreign government after they leave office, but no law prohibits them from doing so and this would not necessarily apply to future administrations.

They were then presented with a proposal to change the law:

There is a proposed bill in Congress that would prohibit former senior Executive Branch officials from any lobbying on behalf of a foreign government for the rest of their life.

Arguments for and against the proposal were evaluated, with the argument in favor doing overwhelmingly better -- by around 60 points -- then the argument against. There were no significant differences between the parties.

In the end, the proposal was favored by 75%, including 81% of Republicans and 70% of Democrats.

Response Without Undergoing Policymaking Simulation
When a separate sample was told the results of the survey above, 87% said they agreed with the majority position, including 87% of Republicans and 88% of Democrats. The (PPC 2018)

Related Standard Polls
Standard polls have also shown broad support for prohibitions on former government officials lobbying for foreign governments, but also larger shares without well-formed views on the proposal:

  • Asked whether they support a bill that would prohibit “the President, Vice President, members of Congress and other top-level appointed government officials from lobbying for any foreign government or corporation for ten years after leaving their government service,” 66% were in favor, including 71% of Republicans and 60% of Democrats. Just 20% were against the proposal, and 13% did not provide an answer. (May 2012, Democracy Corps/Public Action Campaign Fund)

Status of Legislation
The proposal to permanently ban former senior Executive Branch officials from lobbying for foreign governments was in H.R. 484 by Rep. Peter De Fazio (D) and H.R. 796 by Rep. DeSantis (R) in the 115th Congress. Neither bill made it out of committee.

Currently, this proposal has been reintroduced in H.R. 2101, sponsored by Rep. Jared Huffman (D) in the 116th Congress, which has not made it out of committee.

MAKING HOUSE REDISTRICTING LESS PARTISAN

To address this concern, Members of Congress have put forward legislation that would take away control of redistricting from state legislatures and put it in the hands of a nonpartisan citizen commission. The proposal presented to respondents was based on a provision in the Fair Representation Act (H.R. 3057) from the 115th Congress. 

Respondents were first introduced to the topic of Congressional redistricting, and how the current system affects the responsiveness of Members of Congress:

Another debate in Congress is about how the districts for the House of Representatives of the US Congress are designed. As you may know, every 10 years, with the new US Census, these districts are redesigned by state governments to adjust for population shifts. Usually this is done by state legislatures.

Some Members of Congress are concerned that state legislatures, which are often dominated by one party or the other, try to design districts that favor their party. When legislatures do this, it is called gerrymandering.

The proposal to change how redistricting is done, in order to reduce gerrymandering, was then introduced:

In Congress, there is a proposal to have the shape of Congressional districts set by a commission of citizens within each state. Such citizen commissions are already being used in a few states.

The proposal specifies that the commission of citizens would: 

  • be committed to designing districts in a way that is geographically natural and compact without creating a favorable distribution for either party
  • be one third Republicans, one third Democrats, and one third independents, 
  • reflect the balance of the state according to gender, race, ethnicity and the geographic areas of the state.

Decisions on the shape of districts would be made by a majority of the commission members that includes at least one member from both parties and an independent.

Arguments for and against the proposal were then evaluated. The pro arguments did much better than those against, with substantial bipartisan majorities finding them convincing. There were partisan differences in responses to the con arguments, as majorities of Republicans found them convincing, while just a third of Democrats did.

Asked for their final recommendation, two thirds of respondents – including 53 percent of Republicans, 80 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of independents – favored having congressional districts drawn by a nonpartisan commission of citizens.

They were also asked to rate the proposal’s acceptability using a 0-10 scale. It was found at least tolerable (5-10) by 80%, including 70% of Republicans and 87% of Democrats. 

Response Without Undergoing Policymaking Simulation
When a separate sample was told the results of the survey above, 86% said they agreed with the majority position, including 81% of Republicans and 91% of Democrats. (PPC 2018).

Related Standard Polls
Bipartisan support for ending partisan gerrymandering has been high, even when respondents are told that doing so could hurt their own party:

  • Given a choice between “Congressional districts that are drawn with no partisan bias, even if that means your own preferred party would not win as many seats,” and partisan gerrymandering “knowing that your preferred party would likely win more seats”, 73% chose not to have partisan gerrymandering, including 71% of Republicans and 74% of Democrats. Furthermore, 62% said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who supports partisan gerrymandering, including 57% of Republicans and 68% of Democrats. (2017, Lake Research Partners/WPA Intelligence)

Status of Legislation 
The proposal to take control of redistricting away from state legislatures and put it in the hands of a non-partisan citizen commission was based on a provision in the Fair Representation Act (H.R 3057), sponsored by Rep. Don Beyer (D) in the 115th Congress. The bill did not make it out of committee, and has been reintroduced by Rep. Don Beyer (H.R. 4000) in the 116th Congress. 

The proposal is also part of the larger government reform bill For the People Act, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D) (S. 1) Rep. John Sarbanes (D) (H.R. 1) in the 117th Congress which passed the House, with all votes in favor coming from Democrats and all votes against from Republicans. The bill has yet to be taken up in the Senate.

To address this concern, Members of Congress have put forward a proposal to create multi-member districts. The proposal presented to respondents was based on a provision in the Fair Representation Act (H.R 3057) from the 115th Congress.

Respondents were given the following briefing about the proposal to change Congressional districts, as a means of increasing partisan representation in states:

A current bill in Congress proposes a new way of structuring districts in the US House of Representatives. Proponents say this proposal addresses two issues

  • In some states, all of their Members of Congress are from one party, even though a very large portion of the population identifies with the other party. 
  • Independents and third-party candidates have little chance of getting elected, even though a substantial number of voters might favor them. 

As you know, under current law, a Congressional district is represented by one Member of Congress, and each state elects two Senators, who represent the entire state.

The idea of this proposal is one that is allowed by the Constitution. This proposal would make larger US House districts that would be represented by more than one Member of Congress. This would increase the likelihood Members of Congress would more accurately mirror the partisan mix of the population. Here is how it would work:

  • In a state with five or fewer Congressional districts, the state would still have the same number of House Members, but they would be elected by all of the state’s voters and represent the whole state. 

For example, for a state with five Congressional districts, on the ballot there would be at least five Republicans and five Democrats, as well as possible independent and third-party candidates. Five U.S. House Members would be elected by all voters in the state.

Results from research that has been done on the potential effects of this proposal were also presented:

Research has been done on what the likely effect would be: election results would more closely mirror the partisan balance of the state. For example, Connecticut is a state in which all five House seats are currently held by Democrats and Oklahoma is one in which all five House seats are currently held by Republicans. The proposed system would likely result in 1-2 Republicans being elected in Connecticut and 1-2 Democrats in Oklahoma.

For states with more than five districts, the state would keep the same number of House Members, but the districts would be redesigned to be larger and have 3-5 Members each. The 3-5 House Members would be elected by all of the voters in these larger districts.

They then evaluated arguments for and against this proposal. The pro argument was found convincing by a bipartisan majority of three in four, while the con argument was found convincing by a majority of only Republicans, and just half nationally.

In the end, this proposal for multi-member districts was favored by 55 percent, including 66 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of independents.  Among Republicans, only 44 percent favored the idea with 53 percent opposed. 

Asked to rate the proposal’s acceptability along a 0-10 scale, 71% found it at least tolerable (5-10), including 64% of Republicans and 78% of Democrats. 

Status of Legislation 
The proposal to create multi-member districts, so that representatives more accurately represent the partisan makeup of their state, was based on a provision in the Fair Representation Act (H.R 3057), sponsored by Rep. Beyer (D) in the 115th Congress. The bill did not make it out of committee, and has been reintroduced by Rep. Beyer (H.R. 4000) in the 116th Congress.

IMPOSING CONGRESSIONAL TERM LIMITS

To address this concern, Members of Congress have consistently, over the last few decades, put forward legislation that would amend the constitution to establish term limits for Members of Congress. 

Respondents were introduced to the idea of establishing term limits as a way to increase responsiveness by elected officials in Congress, as follows:

We will now turn to proposals that seek to increase the responsiveness of elected officials in Washington to the interests and views of the American people.

One proposal is to have term limits for Members of Congress. 

The rationale is that once a Representative or Senator is in office, they tend to be re-elected. Incumbents win re-election races more than 90 percent of the time. Some people say that this makes it easier for long-standing Members of Congress not to pay close attention to the needs and views of their constituents.

The proposal is to pass a Constitutional amendment to limit how many terms a member of the House or Senate may stay in office, similar to the term limits placed on the President. 

They evaluated arguments for and against the general idea of establishing term limits. The pro argument did substantially better nationally and among both parties, with less than half finding the con argument convincing. Only a modest majority of Democrats found the con convincing.

Asked whether their representative should vote for a constitutional amendment to create term limits, a bipartisan eight in ten were in favor, including 88% of Republicans and 73% of Democrats.

Response Without Undergoing Policymaking Simulation
When a separate sample was told the results of the survey above, 86% said they agreed with the majority position to pass a constitutional amendment to impose term limits on Members of Congress, with House Members limited to four two-year terms and Senators limited to three six-year terms, including 91% of Republicans and 80% of Democrats. (PPC 2018)

Related Standard Polls
Polls have found stable majorities in support of imposing term limits on Members of Congress, with similar differences between Republicans and Democrats:

  • Asked whether they support, “putting limits on the number of times Senators and Congressman can run for office,” 82% were in favor, including 88% of Republicans and 73% of Democrats. (November 2016, Quinnipiac University)
  • Told that, “establishing term limits on the number of terms members of the US Congress can serve,” would apply to their “own senators and representatives”, 78% were in support of establishing term limits, including 84% of Republicans and 74% of Democrats. (September 2010, Fox News/Opinion Dynamics)

 Status of Legislation 
The proposal to amend the constitution to establish term limits for Members of Congress has been introduced numerous times over the last few decades, none of which made it out of committee. 

There is another proposal to address term limits in H.R. 198 by Rep. Ralph Norman (R) in the 116th Congress, which would require each state’s election official to put on the ballot a measure for a nonbinding referendum on term limits for their state’s Members of Congress. This bill has not made it out of committee.

  • House Members limited to 3 terms and Senate Members to 2 terms (70%, Republicans 76%, Democrats 66%)
  • House Members limited to 4 terms and Senate Members to 2 terms (73%, Republicans 79%, Democrats 66%)
  • House Members limited to 6 terms and Senate Members to 2 terms (72%, Republicans 80%, Democrats 66%)

Response Without Undergoing Policymaking Simulation
When a separate sample was told the results of the survey above, 86% said they agreed with the majority position to pass a constitutional amendment to impose term limits on Members of Congress, with House Members limited to four two-year terms and Senators limited to three six-year terms, including 91% of Republicans and 80% of Democrats. (PPC 2018)

Related Standard Polls
Polls have found stable majorities in support of imposing term limits on Members of Congress, with similar differences between Republicans and Democrats:

  • Asked whether they support, “putting limits on the number of times Senators and Congressman can run for office,” 82% were in favor, including 88% of Republicans and 73% of Democrats. (November 2016, Quinnipiac University)
  • Told that, “establishing term limits on the number of terms members of the US Congress can serve,” would apply to their “own senators and representatives”, 78% were in support of establishing term limits, including 84% of Republicans and 74% of Democrats. (September 2010, Fox News/Opinion Dynamics)

 Status of Legislation 
The proposal to amend the constitution to establish term limits for Members of Congress has been introduced numerous times over the last few decades, none of which made it out of committee. 

There is another proposal to address term limits in H.R. 198 by Rep. Ralph Norman (R) in the 116th Congress, which would require each state’s election official to put on the ballot a measure for a nonbinding referendum on term limits for their state’s Members of Congress. This bill has not made it out of committee.

ENABLING THIRD-PARTY AND INDEPENDENT CANDIDATES

To address this concern, the organization in charge of  Presidential debates (Commission on Presidential Debates) has proposed changing the requirement for candidates to make the debates: from needing to receive an average of 15% support in five major national polls, to fulfilling state requirements to be on the ballot, in enough states that they could conceivably win the election.

Respondents were introduced to this proposal for getting more independent and third-party candidates into Presidential debates, as follows:

The Commission on Presidential Debates controls these debates. Currently, the Commission requires that candidates must receive an average of 15% support in five major national polls just prior to the debate. An independent or third-party candidate has only met this requirement once since the Commission was established in 1987.

Here is an alternative requirement that has been proposed to the Commission on Presidential Debates to make it more possible for an independent or third-party candidate to be part of the presidential debates:

  • A candidate must fulfill the state requirements to be on the ballot (primarily getting signatures) in enough states that the candidate could conceivably win an election. If more than one candidate meets this condition, then the candidate who has gathered the most signatures across states would be the participant in the debates.

Arguments for and against this proposal were evaluated. The pro argument did substantially better, nationally and of both parties, than the con argument, which was not found convincing by any majority.

In the end, the proposal was supported by 77%, including 75% of Republicans, 77% of Democrats and 83% of independents.

Response Without Undergoing Policymaking Simulation
When a separate sample was told the results of the survey above, 91% said they agreed with the majority position, including 90% of Republicans and 92% of Democrats. (PPC 2018).

Related Standard Polls
A bipartisan majority has supported changing debate requirements to help include more third-party candidates in Presidential debates:

  • Asked whether third party candidates should be included in the presidential debate if they are “certified for president by a majority of state ballots”, 76% said they should, including 66% of Republicans and 78% of Democrats. (August 2016, Suffolk University/USA Today)

Support for including third-party candidates in Presidential debates declines among partisans when dealing with real-time third-party candidates:

  • Respondents were given the options of including third party candidates Gary Johnson and/or Jill Stein in the Presidential debate, or “only the two major party nominees”. A modest majority of 55% chose one or both third party candidates, including 46% of Republicans and 48% Democrats. Among independents, 66% chose one or both. (September 2016, Monmouth University)

 Status of Proposal
The proposal by the Commission on Presidential Debates to change the requirements for being included in a Presidential debate, from needing to receive an average of 15% support in five major national polls, to fulfilling state requirements to be on the ballot, in enough states that they could conceivably win the election, has not been adopted. 

Respondents were told that there is a “debate about whether the government should take steps to make it more possible for independent and third-party candidates to compete in Congressional elections”

They then evaluated the arguments for and against making it easier for independent and third party candidates to compete. The pro argument did substantially better, nationally and among both parties than the con, which was not found convincing by any majority.

Finally, asked whether, “the government [should] take steps to make it more possible for independent and third-party candidates to compete in Congressional elections,” a majority were in favor (74%), with little partisan difference.

Response Without Undergoing Policymaking Simulation
When a separate sample was told the results of the survey above, 92% said they agreed with the majority position, including 89% of Republicans and 94% of Democrats. (PPC 2018)

Status of Legislation
A proposal similar to the one tested, which would make it easier for third party candidates to compete in Congressional elections, is currently in the Ballot Fairness Act, sponsored by Rep. Justin Amash (I) in the 116th Congress. This bill would require states to impose the same requirements for appearing on the ballot in a general congressional election on all candidates, without regard to whether a candidate is the nominee of a political party. It has not yet made it out of committee.

To address this concern, Members of Congress put forward a proposal for adopting ranked choice voting in all federal elections. The proposal presented to respondents was based on a provision in the Fair Representation Act. 

Respondents were first introduced to the debate about ranked choice voting:

Proponents say this method addresses the following two issues with the current system:

  • It is now difficult for independent and third-party candidates to get traction. While some voters might favor them, those voters often select other candidates from a major party out of concern they’d be throwing away their vote. 
  • In an election with three or more candidates, the winner may not have anywhere near a majority of votes and might even be opposed by the majority of voters.

Opponents of the bill say these issues are not significant enough to warrant overhauling the way that Members of Congress are elected.

They were then given the specifics of the proposal:

In this proposed system, voters select not only their most preferred candidate, but also their second choice, third-choice and so on. Here is how the winner is then selected.

  • All the first-choice votes are counted and if any candidate gets the majority he or she is the winner.
  • If no candidate gets a majority based on voters’ first choice, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is removed from the race. Those who gave that candidate their first-choice vote, then have their votes redirected to their second choice. This may result in a candidate getting a majority and being declared the winner.
  • If there is still not a majority, the process of eliminating the lowest candidate and redirecting their votes is repeated until a candidate has a majority and is declared the winner.

This method is now used in elections in a number of U.S. cities and in some other countries, notably Australia. 

Arguments for and against this proposal were then evaluated. The arguments in favor did much better, with bipartisan majorities finding both convincing. The con arguments were found convincing by only about half, with partisan differences. Majorities of Republicans found the con arguments convincing, but no majority of Democrats did.

In the end, ranked choice voting was favored by 55% overall, including 64% of Democrats and 55% of independents. Only 46% of Republicans favored the idea, with 52% opposed.

Resistance to the idea, however, is fairly low.  In a separate question in which respondents were asked to rate the acceptability of the proposal along a 0-10 scale, with 5 being “just tolerable”, 70% found the proposal at least tolerable (5-10), including 62% of Republicans and 78% of Democrats.

Related Standard Polls
Exit polls in cities and states that have adopted ranked choice voting have found majorities supporting its continued use and/or expansion to more elections, including in cities that had a runoff system in which the top-two candidates would compete in another election if neither got a majority of the vote. 

  • In Maine, after the 2018 elections, asked whether they favored expanding it to other elections, keeping it only for the elections its currently used in, or stop using it altogether, 61% stated they favored “expanding” it to more elections (53%) or “keeping” RCV in the elections it’s currently used in (8%). Thirty nine percent wanted to stop using it altogether. Among Democrats, 81% wanted to expand it. Among Republicans, 72% wanted to stop using it. (2018, Bangor Daily News) 
  • In Minneapolis after the 2017 elections, 70% of voters said they supported using ranked choice voting statewide, and 84% using it in municipal elections . This is similar to the 68% who supported its continued use in 2013. Partisan breakouts were not provided. (2017, 2013, Edison)
  • In San Francisco, after the 2005 election, 55% chose the option “I prefer Ranked-Choice Voting to the former runoff system”, while just 17% preferred the former runoff system, and 28% had no preference between the two. After the 2004 election, 61% stated that they preferred RCV to their old system, including 56% of Republicans and 61% of Democrats. (2004, 2005 Public Research Institute)
  • In Takoma Park, Maryland, 89% preferred RCV at least in local elections, 75% at least on the local and state level, and 55% on the local, state and national level. Partisan breakouts were not provided. (2007, FairVote)

Status of Legislation
The proposal to adopt ranked choice voting for all federal elections was in the Fair Representation Act (H.R 3057), sponsored by Rep. Don Beyer (D) in the 115th Congress. The bill did not make it out of committee, and has been reintroduced (H.R. 4000) in the 116th Congress. 

The proposal is also part of the larger government reform bill For the People Act, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D) (S. 1) Rep. John Sarbanes (D) (H.R. 1) in the 117th Congress, which passed the House, with all votes in favor coming from Democrats and all votes against from Republicans. The bill has yet to be taken up in the Senate.