New polling indicates that the majority of Americans believe that U.S. lawmakers are largely influenced by their campaign donors and barely influenced by their own constituents.
On July 6, Gallup released the results of a survey it had conducted asking how much influence different forces had on members of Congress. The poll found the majority of respondents believe that the people who lawmakers are supposed to represent are the least likely to be heard.
Of those polled, 64 percent answered that major donors had a lot of influence over Congress while 21 percent believe they influenced legislation a fair amount. Only 3 percent of respondents believe that major donors held no sway over legislators.
Regarding lobbyists, 55 percent of respondents believe they hold a lot of power over what legislation is passed in Congress, while 24 percent believe lobbyists hold a fair amount of influence. Only 4 percent believe they have no power.
Clocking in at third were party leaders in Congress, who could range from committee chairmen to House Speakers and Majority Leaders. Almost half — 45 percent — of respondents believe that party leaders hold a lot of sway over what bills pass, while 33 percent believe they have a fair amount of power.
Only 2 percent of respondents believe that party leaders hold no power at all on how their colleagues vote.
Meanwhile, only 14 percent of respondents answered that people in the districts in which lawmakers represent hold a lot of power over what legislation is passed, and 29 percent believe that constituents influence Congressmen only a fair amount.
The majority of respondents answered that the wishes of constituents mattered only a little to Congress, at 49 percent. Another 6 percent believes that their opinion does not factor into what legislation is passed whatsoever.
The perception that Congress only listens to high-rolling campaign donors and lobbyists is not a partisan viewpoint. The survey results found that respondents who identified as Republican, Democrat or Independent gave virtually identical answers.
The polling also indicated that the more an individual knows about the workings of Washington D.C., the more likely they are to be pessimistic about who holds sway over Congress.
Breaking down the answers based on political knowledge, Gallup found that the more knowledgeable the respondents were about current politics, the more likely they were to believe that major donors and lobbyists had a lot of influence over lawmakers and that constituents held very little influence.
Data backs up the perception that Congress is more influenced by wealthy campaign contributors than the general public.
A 2014 study conducted by Princeton and Northwestern University found that whenever public opinion clashed with the whims of the economic elite and special interests groups, Congress would routinely side with the latter group, according to The Telegraph.
“The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence,” the study concluded.
On June 14, the House voted to protect the names of donors who contribute more than $5,000 to political action committees, Reuters reports.
That legislation ensured that wealthy campaign contributors can donate to political campaigns without transparency.