Gulp: WaPo poll shows massive opposition to Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance

Bad politically, bad on the constitutional merits.

Eight in 10 poll respondents say they oppose the high court’s Jan. 21 decision to allow unfettered corporate political spending, with 65 percent “strongly” opposed. Nearly as many backed congressional action to curb the ruling, with 72 percent in favor of reinstating limits.

The poll reveals relatively little difference of opinion on the issue among Democrats (85 percent opposed to the ruling), Republicans (76 percent) and independents (81 percent).

The results suggest a strong reservoir of bipartisan support on the issue for President Obama and congressional Democrats, who are in the midst of crafting legislation aimed at limiting the impact of the high court’s decision. Likely proposals include banning participation in U.S. elections by government contractors, bank bailout recipients or companies with more than 20 percent foreign ownership.

The gruesome numbers are here. To some extent, the data’s a product of how the questions are phrased. When Rasmussen polled this same topic last month, they found a 60/27 split opposing the right of corporations to “influence elections” but a 53/37 split in favor of letting corporations express their views on issues. (This phenomenon also applies to polling on the public option and, well, pretty much everything else.) WaPo specified the unlimited nature of corporate expenditures in its own question about this, which may have helped drive the numbers up. But even so, and granting that this isn’t a huge electoral issue in the sense that it’s going to overwhelm public concern about unemployment or deficits, it ain’t ideal for the GOP to be on the wrong side of an issue this lopsided in a political climate as populist and anti-Wall Street as this. That doesn’t mean they should flip-flop — the First Amendment is the First Amendment — but given their rep for being the party of big business, they may try to blunt a Democratic attack along these lines by being a bit more amenable this year to, say, financial regulations.

Exit question: 76 percent of Republicans and 81 percent of independents oppose the ruling? What happened to the first-principles constitutionalism of the tea partiers?

Update: A nice catch from Newsbusters. Like I say, the phrasing of the question is oh so important:

The misinformation begins right in the lede, where reporter Dan Eggen claims the SCOTUS decision “allows corporations and unions to spend as much as they want on political campaigns.” That statement is utterly false. The decision allows corporations and unions to spend unlimited dollars on political advertising. Restrictions on campaign contributions are still in place.

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