Berkeley Heights, NJ – In a unique survey of 478 residents of New Jersey’s 7th Congressional District, majorities of Republicans and Democrats agreed on ways to curb the influence of money in politics, prevent gerrymandering, and limit lobbying by former elected officials.
The survey results were released at a “Citizen Panel Forum” in Berkeley Heights on Saturday. Congressman Tom Malinowski attended and discussed the findings with dozens of the residents of the 7th District who took the online survey.
The survey, conducted by the Program for Public Consultation (PPC) of the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, showed that large bipartisan majorities favored a number of reforms under consideration in Congress to address the role of money in elections including:
- reforming campaign finance by encouraging donations by small donors,
- strengthening requirements for public disclosure of campaign donations and expenditures,
- a Constitutional amendment that would overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United.
Bipartisan majorities also supported having a citizen commission design Congressional districts instead of state legislatures, thus preventing them from gerrymandering districts in their partisan favor.
Details on the survey findings can be found at www.publicconsultation.org/united-states/nj7-survey-findings/.
“In standard town hall meetings, members of Congress put forward their views and citizens respond,” said PPC Director Steven Kull. “In a Citizen Panel Forum the views of a representative sample of citizens are first put forward, then the member responds and there is a discussion.”
“The survey shows what we see across the country: that more people agree across party lines than is frequently assumed,” said Howard Konar, founder of Common Ground Solutions. “Citizen Panel Forums help Members of Congress listen carefully to people in their districts.”
Four hundred seventy-eight New Jersey residents from the 7th District participated in the online survey, initiated by the nonpartisan organizations Voice of the People and Common Ground Solutions. Respondents went through a process called a ‘policymaking simulation’ that gives users information and seeks to put them in the shoes of a policymaker. Respondents are provided a briefing, presented with pro and con arguments, and then asked to weigh-in with their specific recommendations. The content was reviewed in advance by experts on all sides to assure accuracy and balance.
The survey and the Citizen Panel Forum are part of a larger Citizen Panel Initiative, sponsored by Voice of the People and Common Ground Solutions, that seeks to give citizens tools to more effectively understand and weigh-in on decisions before Congress, to give members of Congress a better understanding of their constituents, and to discern the potential for bipartisan convergence.
The proposals that received the highest levels of support were ones that required greater public disclosure of campaign-related donations to counter what critics call “dark money.” For example, 78 percent (Republicans 75 percent, Democrats 85 percent) favored a proposal requiring individuals or organizations that donate $10,000 or more to register with the Federal Election Commission and have their name and the amount of their donations listed on the FEC’s website.
To counter the influence of large campaign donors, 59 percent (Republicans 57 percent, Democrats 70 percent) favored giving a tax credit to donors contributing up to $50 to a specific candidate if the donor’s donations to all candidates does not exceed $300. However, majorities opposed having the government provide a 6-to-1 match for donations by small donors.
Sixty-six percent (Republicans 58 percent, Democrats 83 percent) supported a Constitutional amendment to effectively overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, and allow Congress and the states to directly regulate campaign financing, and allow restrictions or prohibitions on corporate spending to influence elections.
Sixty-six percent supported having a citizen commission design congressional districts to counter the potential of gerrymandering (60 percent of Republicans and 75 percent of Democrats).
Sixty-one percent supported requiring former Members of Congress to wait 5 years before engaging in lobbying (63 percent of Republicans and 67 percent of Democrats).
The views expressed in New Jersey’s 7th District were quite similar to those in nationwide surveys with samples of more than 2,000 voters provided by Nielsen Scarborough.
Government Reform Questionnaire with NJ-7 and U.S. National Frequencies: http://www.publicconsultation.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/nj7_govt_reform_quaire_0220.pdf
Government Reform Survey Slides with NJ-7 and U.S. National Results: http://www.publicconsultation.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/nj7_govt_reform_0220.pdf
Members of the public can go through the same policymaking simulation at: www.publicconsultation.org/nj-7-government-reform-survey