Do candidates benefit from rejecting PAC contributions? Evidence from a pre-registered candidate evaluation survey experiment


Do congressional candidates benefit electorally from the public’s disdain of political action committees (PACs)? Despite the large sums of money given by PACs, an increasing number of candidates have sworn off corporate PAC money. In this research note we investigate whether the decision to accept or reject PAC contributions in general affects voters' evaluation of candidates and their willingness to vote for them. To test these questions, we use a pre-registered candidate evaluation survey experiment that was fielded as part of the 2020 Cooperative Congressional Election Study. We find that voters are more likely to vote for, donate to, and trust candidates that reject PAC contributions. Surprisingly, we fail to find evidence that this effect is moderated by party ID. The evidence indicates that Republican and Democratic voters alike penalize candidates that accept PAC money. This study is among the first to investigate how candidates' campaign financing choices influence their perceptions among voters.