(Bloomberg) — Americans may be sharply divided on other issues, but they are united in their view of the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that unleashed a torrent of political spending: They hate it.
In a new Bloomberg Politics national poll, 78 percent of those responding said the Citizens United ruling should be overturned, compared with 17 percent who called it a good decision.
“Wow. Wow. I’m stunned,” said David Strauss, a constitutional law professor who teaches at the University of Chicago. “What it suggests is that Citizens United has become a symbol for what people perceive to be a much larger problem, which is the undue influence of wealth in politics.”
The 5-4 ruling said that corporations have a First Amendment right to spend unlimited sums in support of political causes. That decision, coupled with a lower court’s rejection of a ceiling on contributions to political groups, opened the way for the super-PACs that are expected to pump hundreds of millions of dollars into the 2016 presidential race.
Unhappiness with the 2010 decision cuts across demographic and partisan and ideological lines. Although the ruling was fashioned by the court’s conservative majority, Republicans oppose Citizens United 80 percent to 18 percent, according to the poll. Democrats oppose 83 percent to 13 percent, and independents, 71 percent to 22 percent. Among self-described liberals, conservatives, and moderates, 80 percent say the decision should be overturned.
“I would have assumed that by now there would have been a more partisan context to it,” said Trevor Potter, a Citizens United critic and former Federal Election Commission chairman who serves as president of the Campaign Legal Center in Washington. “This one is not seen in partisan context, just with overwhelming disapproval. The reason, I think, is that most people don’t think that corporations and unions have First Amendment rights.”
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Democratic candidates are aiming to harness the hostility toward Citizens United in the 2016 presidential campaign. Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O’Malley all say they will insist that their Supreme Court nominees oppose Citizens United. Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig is running a quixotic campaign based solely on his vow to reduce the influence of money in politics.
The broad opposition to Citizens United stands in contrast to the polarized views of the Supreme Court’s recent decision on King v. Burwell, which backed the ability of Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) exchanges established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to offer PPACA premium tax subsidies. Democrats supported that ruling 79 percent to 15 percent in the poll, while Republicans opposed it 77-18. Overall, 49 percent said it was a good decision, and 44 percent called for it to be overturned.