The Impact of Disclosure upon Vote Choice

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The Ohio State University

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Since the landmark case Citizens United v. FEC (2010), the topic of money in politics has been highly salient. While Justice Kennedy’s holding in it is firmly against campaign finance regulation, he appears to leave the door open to disclosure laws. While campaign finance reform has been widely discussed from legal and policy standpoints, little research has been conducted on the impact that these disclosure laws have on voters. This study focuses on the potential impact that a disclosure system can have on how voters measure a candidate’s trustworthiness. By using a random sample of potential voters in Columbus, Ohio and Irvine, CA, I conducted an experimental survey. First, respondents were asked a timed questionnaire to gauge their political knowledge. Subsequently, respondents watched an ad advocating for a fictional city council candidate. Respondents were then randomly assigned to one of three groups in which they were told that the ad was paid for by “Americans for Liberal Action”, “Americans for Conservative Action”, or “Americans for Action”. Respondents were then asked questions about how they perceived the candidate, and the likelihood of voting for him. Finally, respondents were asked specific demographic questions. I hypothesize that potential voters can and do draw political cues when disclosed the name of an advocacy organization that supports a candidate. Specifically, when the advocacy organization gives an ideological cue that is similar to the beliefs the potential voter, he or she will be likelier to support the candidate than if they are not given that cue, or if they are given a cue that contradicts their beliefs. I find that across subgroups, respondents are in fact more likely to vote for the candidate when he is supported by the non-ideological cue.


This thesis won 1st place in the "Rights, Resources, and Political Action” category at The Denman Undergraduate Research Forum


Political Science, Political Psychology, Campaign Finance, Survey Methodology, Disclosure