Landmark Survey of Public Attitudes Shows Distrust of Government, Faith in Reform

September 14, 2006

Concern among Wisconsin residents about corruption in state government and the influence of money in state politics runs even higher than concern about bread-and-butter issues such as the economy and education, according to a new landmark public opinion survey conducted by Belden, Russonello & Stewart, an independent research firm in Washington, D.C.

The survey of public attitudes toward political and government reform in five Midwestern states – Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio – was conducted from June 14 through July 6, 2006. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.2 percentage points. Highlights of the poll’s findings. Overview of findings specific to Wisconsin.

Although the survey reveals deep distrust of state government, it also shows that Wisconsin citizens and other Midwesterners also believe reform is possible and are convinced that addressing the problem of money in politics will make government work better.

Nearly three-quarters of Wisconsin residents surveyed believe that elected officials will not be able to keep their promises on issues important to people like them unless the influence of money in government is limited. Over 60 percent of state residents feel that candidates who could represent them do not run for office because they do not have the money to win.

Yet 65 percent of Wisconsin residents disagree with the statement that “corruption in government will always be a problem, so trying to fix it will not make much difference.” And solid majorities believe that political reforms such as public financing of campaigns would make a big difference in making government work better.

Reform recommendations from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Common Cause in Wisconsin and the League of Women Voters in Wisconsin.

Joyce Foundation Press Release (pdf) Survey Highlights (pdf)
Wisconsin Survey Results (pdf)Reform Recommendations