Political

Do political donations increase political extremism? What new research says

Welcome to the latest in my occasional series highlighting interesting findings from academic research. Today – the impact of political donations on the ideological stances of political parties.

Here’s what new research says:

Using … data that cover 45 parties in 9 countries from 1996 to 2013, I show that the more private money parties receive, the more likely are they to take extreme positions. I further show that this effect is especially strong in the case of the more ideological, principled issues, and absent in the case of the less ideological, pragmatic ones.

The heart of the argument is that political donors have more polarised political views than typical voters, and so the more a party depends on or values their donations, the more polarised that party’s views become too.

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It’s normal to complain about the impact of big money on politics, but this research includes small, grassroots donations in that polarising effect.

Which is a reminder of why cleaning up the role of money in politics needs to be only only about transparency and about the impact of the the super-rich, it also needs to be about the overall impact of money too – such as via meaningful spending limits.

The full research paper is Andrey Tomashevskiy, “Does private money increase party extremism?”, Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties, Vol. 32 No.1, 2022.

You can read the other posts in the Evidence-based campaigning: what the academic research says series here.

2 responses to “Do political donations increase political extremism? What new research says”

  1. “Which is a reminder of why cleaning up the role of money in politics needs to be only only about transparency and about the impact of the the super-rich, it also needs to be about the overall impact of money too – such as via meaningful spending limits.”

    That to me, as an election agent of 20+ years experience, goes to the heart of the problem. Our politics is increasingly bought and sold like any other commodity.

  2. I agree with David Rolfe. However, there needs to be a tweak to enable the first sentence he quotes to make sense. Between “needs to be …” and “only”, surely the word NOT has been omitted by mistake ?

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