Despite Dems, Media Banging the 'Secret Money' Drum, Poll Shows Voter Apathy on Matter

Liberal Democrats in the past few weeks have been pounding the message that massive infusions of "secret" money into independently-run political advertising have a detrimental effect on Democrats democracy. The media have done their level best to amplify that complaint.

But is knowing the identity of political advertising donors really a huge issue to swing voters?

By and large, no, according to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll.

Of course that polling data didn't make it into today's front-page piece by Dan Balz  entitled "Democrats bracing for losses."

Instead it appeared in the print edition on page A6 in Chris Cillizza's "Trail Mix" feature, adapted from a November 1 "The Fix" blog post:

Fewer than half of moderate and conservative Democrats in a new Washington Post/ ABC News poll said that it was very important for them to know who is paying for campaign ads, a number that suggests the intense White House focus on the issue may not change many minds in swing districts when voters go to the polls tomorrow.


Overall, forty-eight percent said that knowing the identity of who is funding campaign commercials is very important while 30 percent called it "somewhat" important. Twenty two percent of likely voters said that knowing the funders behind ads was either "not so" important (11 percent) or "not at all" important (11 percent).


For much of the last two months, the White House has worked to focus the public -- and the media -- on the heavy spending by conservative groups like American Crossroads that are dropping tens of millions of dollars on the election without having to disclose much information about their donors. Democrats argue that the non-transparent spending is evidence of Republicans trying to buy the election.


According to the Post/ABC poll, the group most responsive to that message is, not surprisingly, liberal Democrats -- with 60 percent of the party's base voters saying that it is very important for them to know who is funding the ads.


But other swing constituencies retain far less passionate feelings about their need to know. Just 46 percent of moderate/conservative Democrats say it's very important for them to know the funding sources of the ads, and a similar proportion of independents -- 48 percent -- say the same.


Interestingly, young people aged 18 to 29, who were a critical part of the Obama victory coalition in 2008, were even less interested in the transparency question that the swing constituency-- with just three in ten (31 percent) calling it very important to know who pays for campaign ads.


The data, in other words, suggests that the White House's push on the issue could, marginally, excite their party's base -- although not younger people -- but isn't an issue that resonates all that strongly with voters in the ideological middle.


That could spell trouble tomorrow as, particularly in the House, Democrats are trying to defend seats heavily populated by moderate-to-conservative voters.


Campaign Financing 2010 Congressional Campaigns & Elections Government & Press Dan Balz Chris Cillizza