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Bombastic billionaire Donald Trump is considered among all voters to be the candidate least likely to be under the control of big business and special interest groups, according to a recent survey by the University of Chicago Booth School of Business George J. Stigler Center for the Study of the Economy and the State, with 50 percent of respondents naming him “most free from the influence of big donors”  and as the candidate most able to stand up to big business and special interest groups when it comes to policy decisions; only 22 percent of all voters gave that distinction to Bernie Sanders, despite his repeated calls for campaign reform and refusal to accept money from Super PACs.

Conducted by phone among 1,025 people between December 22–30, 2015, the survey revealed that 57 percent of Americans agree with the statement that “candidates who take money from big businesses, unions and special interest groups are under their control,” while only 43 percent believe that all politicians need campaign contributions but are not necessarily committed to big corporations and special interest groups.

 A surprising twist in the survey results revealed that Democrats are the group least concerned about the influence of money in politics at 46 percent, while 55 percent of Republicans polled expressed that sentiment. The concern is most acute among independent voters, at 62 percent.

Additionally, the survey reveals that income among Democratic voters plays a role in their views on the influence of special interest groups; the more affluent they are, the more they perceive Sanders as the free from money influence, and the less they trust Trump:

  • Of Democrats with an annual household income above $100,000, 66 percent think Sanders is the “most free from the influence of big donors.
  • Only 10 percent of that same group believes Trump is most free from the influence of Super PACs.
  • Only 9 percent of this group believes Hillary Clinton is “most free from the influence of big donors.”

The ranking is reversed for Democrats with an annual household income of below $100,000, with 38 percent choosing Trump vs. 26 percent choosing Sanders and 25 percent believing Clinton is most free from the influence of big donors.

“These results suggest that if the theme of money and politics will be important in the general elections, Trump will have an advantage over Clinton among all Democrats, but in particular blue collar ones,” says Luigi Zingales, professor of entrepreneurship and finance at Chicago Booth and director of the Stigler Center.

These survey results revealing the varying degrees to which American voters believe candidates are influenced by money are congruent with the Stigler Center’s Campaign Finance Capture Index on concentration of donations. 

“It is likely that this topic will take center stage, given the growing importance that large donations (above $5000) have assumed in this campaign,” Zingales says. “At this point in the campaign in 2008, the donations above $5,000 represented close to zero percent. In 2012 they represented 36 percent of all the money raised by all candidates; this year they represent roughly 43 percent, but only as a result of the fact that Sanders raised all his money from small donations. For Cruz and Rubio the proportion of large donation is close to 60 percent, while for Clinton, it is round 40 percent.”

For more information, visit the Stigler Center blog.

Contact Booth Media Relations

Marielle Sainvilus
Director of Public Relations and Communications
Phone: 773.531.2894

Email Marielle