Campaign funds have continuously been influenced by the numbers in the polls and proved more influential than candidates’ platform values. Most recently, we have seen Michael Bloomberg soar in the 2020 presidential election polls after self-funding over $400 million into his campaign.
In October, two-thirds of the Democratic candidates spent more than they raised. Since then, candidates Kamala Harris and Corey Booker dropped out of the presidential race in December and January, citing a lack of funds as their most prominent reason for leaving the campaign trail.
A presidential candidate’s chances at winning the presidency should not be determined by how much money can be put into the campaign, but by the amount of support they have from the American people.
However, the relationship between money and polling numbers are directly correlated. Looking at the Trump’s election and the current model used by Bloomberg, it is clear that advertising plays a crucial role in the polls.
The current system of wealth-based advertising funding has grossly limited the amount of people candidates have been able to reach, and given an unfair advantage to candidates with larger funds. The system perpetuates classism, barring political power to only those who can afford to compete for it.
A study done by the Stanford Graduate School of Business found that advertising economic variables are enough to shift election outcomes. For example, the study found that, without advertising in 2000, a different president would have been elected into office.
An analysis done by POLITICO found that one could estimate the time left in the campaign of non-front rummer candidates based on the number of funds available to put towards advertising. The study concluded that, while some candidates have enough money to stay in the race, it won’t influence polling numbers unless there is enough to also put toward advertising.
Bloomberg arrived late into the 2020 bid and jump started his campaign by the millions, putting the bulk of his funds toward advertising. Since his increase in advertising, Bloomberg has gone from 8% to 19% in the polls and qualified for his first debate in Nevada. The Associated Press directly linked Bloomberg’s polling to his advertising efforts and campaign funds.
President Donald Trump notably dominated the advertising field in 2016 leading up to election day. A combination of his aggressive advertising techniques, in contrast to Hillary Clinton’s struggling efforts, are arguably one of the main reasons her campaign fell to President Trump.
The amount of money a candidate is able to fund toward their campaign has proved a crucial element in the outcomes of elections. However, a candidate’s allotment of advertising dollars should be the determining factor in who wins the presidency.
Countermeasures should be put in place to push back on these harsh realities without damaging a candidates’ outreach to voters. Limits could be put on campaign minutes and be specific on the days, times and amount of advertising candidates are allowed to publish. A voters’ choice should be based on what a candidate has to say and not how many times they pay to say it.
While each candidate should have the freedom to create their own advertisements and have creative control over their messages, a system of checks and balances for advertising has become necessary.
By implementing a program like this, presidential elections could be more focused on what a candidates’ message to voters is and take power away from which candidate has the largest advertising funds.