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Gallup Poll: Most Americans Support Campaign Finance Reform

Aired January 5, 2001 - 2:32 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: A former political rival of President-elect Bush. John McCain, is stoking the flames for what promises to be a heated battle over campaign finance reform. Many Americans agree there is a definite need to change the way political campaigns are financed in this country.

Gallup Poll editor in chief Frank Newport joins us from Princeton, New Jersey with insights revealed by a new poll.

Just how far are Americans willing to go on this one, Frank?

FRANK NEWPORT, GALLUP POLL EDITOR IN CHIEF: Indeed, Natalie, I would summarize it this way: Americans are all in favor of campaign finance reform, in theory. However, they're cynical that it will make any difference in terms of special interests. And finally they, therefore, give it a lower priority.

Let's look at the numbers, here. First of all, we've asked this question a number of different ways and usually, no matter how we phrase it we find the public saying, yes, yes, yes, we want campaign finance reform.

Here a question we use which says, do you want limits on soft money? And when we asked that, 72 percent of the public says, yes, we would favor that kind of change in America's laws. This is bipartisan; you know, Feingold and McCain, of course, are from two different parties. This is fascinating across America: Republicans, Independents and Democrats have exactly the same percent of support for bans on soft money. So so far, so good.

But look at this next question: We said if campaign finance reform is instituted, do you think it would keep special interests from having inordinate influence in Washington? And here America turns cynical; as I mentioned, that top line, that yellow line is the percent who say no. Each time we've asked the question up until very recently, 64 percent of Americans here, even, said, no, they think that it wouldn't keep special interests from being involved in what's happening. Therefore, they don't think it would have a lot of impact. That's why it's a lower priority.

Earlier in the presidential election, we gave Americans a long laundry list of things and said, how important are these for you -- for the president, to tackle. These are the big ones, you know: education, health care, Social Security; and here's campaign finance reform, just half as important overall. Probably because Americans simply say it may not make all that much difference.

So that's the challenge that Feingold and McCain and the others face. The public definitely favors reforms -- the good news. The bad news is the public is very skeptical that they would really be able to produce meaningful change in the way we elect our federal officials in this country today.

Natalie, that's where the public stands; back to you.

ALLEN: All right; we'll see where folks on Capitol Hill stand, probably, too, this year. Thanks so much, Frank Newport.

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