Poll: Super PACs? Never heard of them!
August 2nd, 2012
10:24 AM ET
2 years ago

Poll: Super PACs? Never heard of them!

Washington (CNN) – Super PACs and other independent advocacy organizations have spent more than $140 million to run ads in the battle for the White House so far this cycle, making them major players in the fight for the presidency, but a new national poll indicates that most Americans know very little about these influential groups.

According to a new Washington Post/Pew Research Center survey, nearly four in ten say they've heard "nothing at all" about "increased spending in this year's presidential election by outside groups not associated with the candidates or campaigns," with another 36% saying they've heard only "a little" about the super PACs spending.

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The poll, released Thursday, also indicates that just four in ten, when given four choices, were able to correctly answer that super PACs were groups "able to accept unlimited political donations." Forty-six percent had no opinion, with nine percent saying it was the name for a congressional committee dealing with the budget deficit (that's the "super committee") and four percent saying it was the term for hazardous waste cleanup sites (that's a "superfund"), one percent saying a super PAC was a "video game for a smart phone."

"In fairness to the American public, knowledge of campaign finance lingo is hardly a prerequisite for good citizenship. But one can only wonder how many people might be able to accurately describe a super PAC if the correct answer wasn't one of four choices with which they were prompted," write the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake.

Super PACs, by law, are allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to advocate in favor or against a political candidate. This cycle, groups on the Republican side have vastly outraised and outspent their counterparts on the Democratic side, benefiting Republican challenger Mitt Romney much more so than President Barack Obama in the presidential campaign.

But the poll indicates that just over half of those polled said that super PACs haven't helped one candidate more than another, with 16% saying they've helped Romney more than Obama and 15% saying the president's benefited more than the presumptive GOP nominee.

The Washington Post/Pew Research Center poll was conducted July 26-29, with 1,010 adults nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report

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Filed under: Fundraising • Polls
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Those 4 in 10 people who are clueless watch some form of Fox foreign owned extreme media. KMA Mittens.

    August 2, 2012 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  2. malcolm

    why don't you press people inform s on the stats, meaning the amount raised by superpacs, at least weekly...?

    August 2, 2012 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  3. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    I would like that if there is anything related to legislation adverstised that it be connected to whomever put the money up for the ad. We should know who is trying to influence the people and the Congress.

    August 2, 2012 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  4. Myviewis

    Obama outraised and outspend McCain in 2008 so I guess Obama knows what is being said in this article, I don't think most voters care to know who the Super PACs are.

    August 2, 2012 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  5. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    It would be nice to see which foreign corporations and foreign governments are bankrolling Mittens. KMA Mittens.

    August 2, 2012 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  6. All4Truth59

    One of the largest threats to our ability to matter as individuals in 100 years and 40% know nothing about it? Do people realize that just the threat of turning their big guns legislature's way is completely destroying our government. I'm not just talking at the national level,either, at all levels. Stories of fake negative adds on laptops being shown to state legislators etc. abound. Vote our way or we'll drop 10 million $ against you. We've all seen the real ones... "American's for Whatever" sponsored adds. It's time we all wake up from our daze and force congress to at least make everyone disclose where every penny comes from, and not just above 10 grand. Of course, half the country thinks every thing is just fine, so we'll all pay the price in the long run.

    August 2, 2012 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  7. Rudy NYC

    The poll reveals the profound depth and scope of the ignorance of the average voter.

    August 2, 2012 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  8. Lisa P

    malcolm

    why don't you press people inform s on the stats, meaning the amount raised by superpacs, at least weekly...?
    August 2, 2012 10:36 am at 10:36 am
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    But isn't the appeal of SuperPACs to wealthy individuals and corporations that they are allowed to keep their donors and the amount of money raised secret? As I understand it, watchdogs can only track expenditures, and even then the only readily available data are contributions to other groups or candidates that do have to report the donations they've received, or large media buys that are a matter of public record. If we know where any of that money originally came from it's only because the donor chose to boast about it, or the info slipped out by mistake (as a line in a corporate annual report, for example).

    August 2, 2012 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  9. Myviewis

    Wire Palladin, S. F.

    It would be nice to see which foreign corporations and foreign governments are bankrolling Mittens. KMA Mittens.
    ----------------------------

    We're still waiting for Obama to let us see his.

    August 2, 2012 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  10. Rudy NYC

    Lisa P asked:

    But isn't the appeal of SuperPACs to wealthy individuals and corporations that they are allowed to keep their donors and the amount of money raised secret? As I understand it, watchdogs can only track expenditures, and even then the only readily available data are contributions to other groups or candidates that do have to report the donations they've received, or large media buys that are a matter of public record. .
    -----------–
    The confusion lies in the fact that not all organizations are created equally under the law. The superPACs described in this article are obligated to reveal donors. Other groups, such as Karl Rove's American Crossroads, do not have reveal donors because they use a loop hole for 501.C4 organizations.

    Typical organizations that use that definition are places that perform benevolent acts for the public good, like a food bank. But, Rove uses that definition and then places ads that are supposedly public information ads, but are effectively political campaign ads. In other words, Rove has found a way to have a superPAC that can accept unlimited donations and not have to reveal who any of the donors are.

    August 2, 2012 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  11. Chumlee

    Those polled must be totally Fox Noise listeners. Obviously, they do not know what day it is. Fox Noise is polluting their brains

    August 2, 2012 11:54 am at 11:54 am |