Study Finds that Public Financing Reduces Incumbent Advantage, Increases Competitiveness but also Polarization

Washington Post: “That is the conclusion of political scientist Andrew Hall. He focuses on state legislative elections and compares trends in the five states that implemented robust public funding programs — Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, and Wisconsin — to trends in other states. Here is what he finds:

  • As intended, public funding reduces the financial advantage of incumbents.
  • As intended, public funding reduces the incumbents’ margin of victory. That is, it makes elections more competitive.
  • Not intended: public financing makes polarization in the state legislature worse.”

“In a more elaborate statistical analysis, Hall examines the gap between Republican and Democratic legislators representing similar districts. In a polarized legislature, a Republican and a Democrat will tend to vote in very different ways even though they represent essentially the same constituents. Hall finds that public financing increases this gap between the parties by 30 percent.”