Study: Working-Class Candidates Less Likely to Run in Public Financing System

A new academic study has found that working-class first-time candidates for the Connecticut legislature became rarer after the state enacted public campaign financing, when compared with candidates in neighboring Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The study, by a Harvard University researcher, found that working-class candidates in Connecticut were less likely to qualify for the state’s public financing for candidates, apparently because of the requirement to raise a large number of small-dollar private contributions to qualify for public financing.

The findings demonstrate that when public financing is available, fewer low socio-economic status candidates run for state legislative office, and “those who do run are not more likely to win and are less likely to utilize public financing.”

The study’s author, Mitchell Kilborn, is a PhD candidate at Harvard University’s Department of Government concentrating in American Politics. His research focuses on inequality in political participation and the interaction between commercial activity and political behavior.  The study was published in the journal State Politics & Policy Quarterly last month.

Candidates running for the office of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of the State, State Comptroller, State Treasurer, State Senator or State Representative can participate in the state’s Citizens Election Program. To participate, candidates must agree to abide by certain requirements, including strict contribution and expenditure limits and mandatory financial disclosures.

Candidates must raise an aggregate amount of small-dollar monetary contributions from individuals (“qualifying contributions”) between $5 and $100 in the case of statewide office candidates and between $5 and $250 in the case of General Assembly candidates.