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Voters Say Money, Media Have Too Much Political Clout

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Voters feel strongly that wealthy donors and special interests and the media are too strong a presence in politics, but they remain closely divided over which is the worst problem.

Seventy-six percent (76%) of Likely U.S. Voters believe the wealthiest individuals and companies have too much influence over elections, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Just four percent (4%) say wealthy individuals and companies have too little political influence, while 16% say their level of influence is about right. (To see survey question wording, click here.) 

Even more voters (80%) agree that wealthy special interest groups have too much power and influence over elections. Only three percent (3%) say they have too little influence, while 14% say the amount of influence wealthy special interests have is about right.

Two-out-of-three voters (66%) also think the news media have too much power and influence over elections. Only four percent (4%) say the media do not have enough political influence. Twenty-six percent (26%) believe the amount of influence the news media have in elections is about right.

Voters have shown similar levels of concern over the influence money and the media have over government decisions.

Forty-seven percent (47%) consider media bias a bigger problem than big campaign contributions in politics today. Nearly as many (45%) see big campaign contributions as the larger concern. These findings are little changed from 2014, but voters tended to see media bias as a bigger problem in earlier surveys dating back to 2008

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The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on February 9-10, 2016 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

Just 41% of voters now think American elections are fair to voters. Slightly more (43%) disagree.  Sixty-one percent (61%) still believe their vote really matters, but just as many (62%) say they do not have enough say when it comes to choosing their leaders. 

Large majorities of voters in all demographic categories agree that wealthy individuals, companies and special interests and the media have too much influence on elections.

Republicans show slightly less concern about the influence of wealthy individuals and special interests on elections compared to Democrats and voters not affiliated with either party. GOP and unaffiliated voters are more critical of wealthy special interests, though, than they are of wealthy individuals and companies. Democrats are less likely than the others to believe the media have too much influence over elections.

When asked to choose between the two, Republicans name media bias as a bigger problem than large campaign contributions by a 67% to 28% margin. Democrats see big money as the bigger problem 57% to 34%. Among unaffiliated voters, 50% say big campaign contributions, while 40% say media bias.

Middle-aged voters tend to believe more strongly than other voters that the media have too much influence over elections.

Black voters by a 52% to 36% margin believe big campaign contributions are a bigger problem than media bias. White and other minority voters are more likely to see media bias as the larger problem but by a much narrower margin.

As coverage of the 2016 presidential election began to heat up last spring, just 23% of all voters expected reporters to offer unbiased coverage of the race.

Seventy-five percent (75%) believe that when it comes to covering prospective presidential candidates, the media is more interested in creating controversies about them than it is in reporting where they stand on the issues. 

Voters are far more likely to think the media is biased against Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump than against his chief Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

Fifty-nine percent (59%) think most members of Congress are willing to sell their vote for either cash or a campaign contribution, and 56% think it’s likely their own representative has already done so. 

Sixty-six percent (66%) of voters feel the federal government has become a special interest group that looks out primarily for its own interests

Many analysts point to the success of Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders who have both railed against the influence of big money interests in politics as proof that electability can’t be bought. Check back tomorrow for a new podcast from Rasmussen Reports Managing Editor Fran Coombs about the impact of big money on the 2016 presidential race.

Additional information from this survey and a full demographic breakdown are available to Platinum Members only.

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To learn more about our methodology, click here.