Public Funding, Parties, and Polarization in Maine and Arizona

April 10, 2012, 6:19 p.m.

In a paper presented at the Midwest Political Science Association, Seth Masket and Michael G. Miller explore the impact of public campaign funding on the ideology of legislators.  The authors  find that clean-funded legislators were more " ideologically extreme relative to their districts and parties than traditionally-funded legislators were."

We investigate whether Maine and Arizona’s Clean Elections laws, which provide public funding for state legislative candidates, are responsible for producing a new cadre of legislators who are hostile to the major political parties and are unusually ideologically extreme. We find evidence that clean-funded legislators are more ideologically extreme relative to their districts than traditionally-funded legislators are, but that this difference in extremism wanes with tenure as new members are socialized into chamber norms. The results suggest that public funding undermines the control of parties by elites and contributes to legislative polarization.

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