Is Money the Deciding Factor In Elections?

Many Americans are convinced of the notion that elections are bought by big corporations, and the one who wins is the person who has the largest war chest. Let’s explore the role of money in elections and why money is oftentimes not the sole deciding factor of an election in the American political system (all else remaining equal). Fundraising for a campaign is important, but I would argue that money is only a key factor in the outcome of an election in few cases usually. If everything else is equal (media coverage, airtime, policy stances, etc.), the outcome of an election is more dependent upon the strategy of that campaign, the impact of the Party that the candidate is in, and the candidate themselves. The null hypothesis in this situation is that none of these factors (including money) makes a difference in who is elected; the alternate hypothesis is that money is the deciding factor of who will win  and election, and whoever raises more will be the winner on Election Day.

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Firstly, the campaign that usually wins in a general election is the campaign that has the better strategy. John Sides argues that because campaigns have finite resources in which to operate, the strategy of a political campaign generally equates to how has a campaign used their resources to efficiently expand their reach to a particular subset of the population and how the campaign’s message resonates with that population. After a campaign has established by their candidate is running and why voters should vote for that person, it is then best to get that message in front of the voters that it will resonate with.

Secondly, Party affiliation can be more important that the amount of money that a campaign has at their disposal.  Since the United States favors a two Party system (Republicans and Democrats), canvassing and campaigning in areas that doesn’t recognize one of these two Parties will be noticeably more difficult than if the candidate was in one of these two. Parties also have resources that they can funnel to the campaign including, but not limited to: researchers, voter databases of people in the district/state, running both positive and negative ads on behalf of a candidate, and connections to other public/political figures that can offer their endorsement to candidates.

Thirdly, the candidate running the race is more important than the amount of money the campaign has to spend. The dollar amount in a campaign’s bank account does not actually tell you how someone will behave, think, or advocate for once that candidate is in office; the character and personality of the person running for that office will tell you. The health of a campaign is usually attached to how much money does that campaign have/how much money that campaign has raised. Moreover, Janet Box-Steffensmeier responds by saying that money dictates how well a campaign is able to construct and disseminate their message to voters and expands the reach and frequency of that same message. Less money available to a political campaign restricts the amount of flexibility and options, which can mean the difference in a close or highly contested race.

After understanding the Psychology of Money, we can better understand that money clouds our judgment. People are more likely to think of someone as a better candidate than another because they have more money. Along this line of thinking, you get statements like, “We should have known Hillary Clinton was going to beat Donald Trump because she has been out-raising and outspending him at every turn.” The Psychology of Money becomes the 3rd Party variable that skews the public perception of why the people with the larger sum of money raised at the end of an Election is going to win said election when, in fact, having a larger war chest does not directly correlate to winning an election.

In conclusion, money is an important factor in American campaigns and elections, but it is not the deciding factor a given election. Thus, the hypothesis of money not being the deciding factor in an election (all else held equal) is upheld. Despite what many Americans believe, who is able to raise or spend more money than their opponent in a political race does not guarantee that person the office. Equally as important as how much money a campaign has is its strategy for getting votes, the activity and potential favor of the Party affiliated with a particular campaign, and the character/personality of the candidate running for office.

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3 thoughts on “Is Money the Deciding Factor In Elections?

  1. lkv5058

    This years election really proved the point that money is not the deciding factor in elections. Trump may be a billionaire, but the money his campaign raised was a fraction of what the Clinton campaign spent. In spite of this, he won by a significant electoral margin. Money is necessary to run a campaign, but other factors are far more important. Thanks for posting! I found your invite very interesting.

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