Business Week/Harris Executive Poll: Look Who Wants To Change The System

As Donorgate unfolds, the campaign finance system is drawing the ire even of its biggest patrons. In the 1996 election, 70% of executives contributed an average of $3,278 apiece. Now, almost as many say the rules need an overhaul. Some 68% favor ending unlimited soft-money contributions, and many support stricter disclosure requirements. In part, execs want more bang for their bucks. But they also may simply be sick of solicitations: Three-quarters say pressure to give has intensified.

As a bonus for our online readers, we're presenting here the complete results of the Business Week/Harris Executive Poll that appears in a condensed version in the March 31, 1997 issue.


In light of allegations surrounding the Clinton Administration's fund-raising tactics, which of the following statements comes closest to your views about the current system of financing political campaigns?

The system is basically sound and 2%

there is no need to change anything

The system requires only modest reforms 29%

needed to curb occasional abuses

The system is broken and is in need 68%

of fundamental reform

Don't know 1%


Do you think it is appropriate or inappropriate for a president--any President--to meet with major campaign contributors at the White House?

Appropriate 51%

Inappropriate 46%

Don't know 3%


Do you favor or oppose...


Increasing the $1,000 limit on 61% 37% 2%

how much money individuals can

give to candidates, while imposing

stricter disclosure requirements

Increasing the $5,000 limit on 25% 74% 1%

how much money political action

committees of corporations, labor

unions, and other special interest

groups can give

Eliminating PAC contributions 33% 63% 4%


Ending unlimited "soft money" 68% 30% 2%

contributions to political

parties by corporations and other


Encouraging individual giving 49% 49% 2%

through tax credits for contributions

Replacing private giving with 37% 60% 3%

taxpayer-supported public

financing of campaigns

Requiring TV and radio stations 56% 43% 1%

to provide candidates free air time


Did you contribute money in 1996 to a political campaign, or not?

Contributed money in 1996 70%

Did not contribute money in 1996 30%

Don't know 0%


Approximately, how much did you contribute?

$25-$250 18% $251-$500 19% $501-$1,000 18% $1,001-$4,000 22% $4,001+ 13%

Mean: $3,278


In 1996 did your company make any soft-money contributions to either political party, or not?

Contributed money in 1996 18%

Did not contribute money in 1996 59%

Don't know/refused 23%


Approximately, how much did your company contribute?

Less than $100,000 31%

$100,000+ 22%

Mean: $132,534

Don't know/Refused 47%


For each of the following, please tell whether this is a major reason, a minor reason, or not a reason at all why you or your company makes political contributions.

Major Minor Not a Don't

reason reason reason Know

Making political contributions is my way 59% 33% 7% 1%

way of supporting the democratic process

I have strong political views and want to 64% 26% 8% 2%

support a political party and candidates

who share my convictions

My company and I hope to gain access to 50% 27% 19% 4%

politicians so we can gain fair consideration

on issues affecting our business

My company and I hope to get preferential 17% 34% 44% 5%

consideration on regulations or legislation

benefiting our business

I fear I may be at a competitive 30% 28% 40% 2%

disadvantage to a rival on some issue if

I don't give

I fear I may lose influence to labor or 25% 33% 40% 2%

environmental groups if I don't give

My company encourages me to donate to 26% 35% 36% 3%

its PAC

I have personal connections to a candidate 21% 30% 48% 1%


Would you say that the pressure from political parties to contribute money in the last election intensified sharply, intensified somewhat, abated somewhat or abated sharply?

Intensified sharply 30%

Intensified somewhat 47%

Abated somewhat 5%

Abated sharply 0%

Don't know 18%


Which of the political parties exerts more pressure on you to contribute money--Democrats, Republicans, Perot, or other?

Democrats 19%

Republicans 39%

Perot 1%

Other 10%

Don't know 31%


Has a candidate ever personally solicited you for a campaign contribution, or not?

Candidate personally solicited 53%

Have not been personally solicited 47%

Don't know/refused 0%


Have you ever felt pressured for a political contribution in a manner that made you feel uncomfortable, or not?

Yes, felt pressured 22%

No, did not feel pressured 78%

Don't know/refused 0%


Were you pressured by...

Pressured Not Pressured Don't Know

A candidate or campaign official 66% 33% 1%

A company superior 24% 75% 1%

A business colleague 51% 47% 2%

Someone else 23% 76% 1%


How effective are PACs at influencing government policy? Are they very effective, somewhat effective, somewhat ineffective, or very ineffective?

Very effective 24%

Somewhat effective 62%

Somewhat ineffective 9%

Very ineffective 2%

Don't know 3%


Regardless of how you may vote, what do you usually consider yourself--a Republican, a Democrat, an Independent, or something else?

Republican 63%

Democrat 12%

Independent 23%

Something else 1%

Don't know 1%

Survey of 400 senior executives at large public corporations. Interviews were conducted March Mar. 11-18, 1997 for BUSINESS WEEK by Louis Harris & Associates Inc.

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