Three out of every four residents in the 23rd Congressional District disagree with the Supreme Court's position that corporations should be able to spend limitlessly on elections, according to a poll commissioned by three progressive organizations.
The 534 registered voters interviewed via telephone March 10-14 took a dim view of congressional members, with 84 percent saying those politicians are influenced more by donors than by constituents. Seventy-one percent said Democrats, who control the majority in both the House and Senate, have not done enough to reduce the influence of special interests.
The SurveyUSA poll, conducted on behalf of MoveOn.org political action committee, Public Campaign Action and Common Cause, had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percent.
Democrats have introduced two bills in response to the Supreme Court ruling to regulate how corporations spend. About half of respondents said the Fair Elections Now Act, wherein a candidate could reject special-interest money and have his or her contributions matched by public funds, would limit the influence of special interests a "lot." Twenty-eight percent of respondents said it would help a "little," with 21 percent saying it wouldn't help at all.
Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, is a co-sponsor of the legislation. Forty-eight percent of respondents said they would be more likely to vote for Mr. Owens if he voted for this bill.
The three organizations that paid for the poll are seeking to raise the amount of public financing in federal elections.
Joan D. Mandle, a Colgate University associate sociology professor and executive director of Democracy Matters, said the poll "is an attempt to say to Bill Owens: We want to make sure you stand by this and take a lead on it because it does resonate with your voters."
Democracy Matters is an affiliate of Common Cause.
The second bill would require any corporation that spends money to elect or defeat a candidate for public office to disclose that money. It would also require the corporate chief executive officer to appear in the ad.
Respondents were more critical of this bill, with equal numbers — 34 percent — saying the bill would limit special interests "little" or "not at all."
Twenty-nine percent said it would help a "lot."
SurveyUSA conducted polls on the Supreme Court decision in 19 congressional districts that pundits believe could swing from one party to another. In New York, the survey was also conducted in the 20th, 24th and 25th districts.
Respondents here were the only ones in New York to say they were less likely — as opposed to more likely — to vote for their congressman if he voted for the disclosure bill, 36 percent to 32 percent. Twenty-seven percent said Mr. Owens' vote would make no difference.
Ms. Mandle said the poll suggested that respondents "don't see it as much of a fix."
"It doesn't really go to the heart of the issue: that you've got to get these candidates to be more independent of big corporate donations," she said. "Disclosure is only as good as people looking at the disclosure and I don't think that will discourage candidates from taking big money and being dependent on these big funders or being afraid of them."
While the surveyors talked to registered voters, they made no attempt to question voters about their likelihood of voting in next fall's election, said Ms. Mandle. Responses were weighted according to age, gender, ethnic origin and geographic area to reflect the proportions in the most recent U.S. Census estimates.