How Much Did Money Matter In The Wisconsin Recall?
Was money the reason Scott Walker won on Tuesday? The available evidence says no.
A common refrain one has been hearing in the two days since the Wisconsin Recall Election, and indeed even before then, is the assertion that money, and especially money from outside Wisconsin, is what helped Scott Walker beat Thomas Barrett for the second time in less than two years. Indeed, Walker vastly outraised Barrett ($30.5 million to $4 million), which a sizable portion of Walker’s cash coming from outside the state. This has led some, such as David Horsey of The Los Angeles Times, to allege that Walker and his supporters “bought” the election, which seems like a nearly insurmountable advantage for Walker. Of course, it’s worth noting that the money raised by the candidates accounted for only about one-half of the roughly $63.5 million raised and spent by both campaigns and outside groups during the course of the Recall Election. More importantly, though, thanks to the identity of the candidates there seems to be a very easy way of determining just how important Walker’s fundraising advantage was:
What this election gave us is a rare and precious thing: a gubernatorial rematch. Walker and Barrett faced each other less than two years ago. Walker beat Barrett by five points back then, after raising $11 million to Barrett’s $6 million. That is, Walker raised 65% of the funds raised by the Republican and Democratic candidates that year and he won 53% of the two-party vote. This week, Walker raised about 88% of the funds raised by the two candidates and he won — wait for it — 54% of the two-party vote.
So there’s your money effect, folks. Go from a 2:1 money advantage to a 7:1 money advantage, and it could increase your vote share by a full percentage point! Woo hoo!
I don’t mean to sound snide, but I’d say in general that if you pair the same candidates up against each other for the same office, you’ll probably get similar results. And I’d say that the real lesson here is how little the electoral results changed after a vast change in financing.
The people who have reacted to the results of the recall by pointing out Walker’s money advantage and asserting that it is the main reason that he managed to pull off a victory actually confuse me. Their basic argument seems to be that voters in general are so stupid that they will be swayed by the message they hear on television most frequently, or that voters even pay attention to such inside-the-beltway obsessions as which candidate has raised the most money. Isn’t it possible that people voted for Scott Walker because they agreed with him, or at least because they didn’t believe it was appropriate to initiate a recall under these circumstances? That certainly seems to be the implication from the exit polls. In addition to the voters overwhelming disapproval of the recall itself, there’s also that rather interesting fact that, according to the exit polls, 6% of the people who voted for Barrett in 2010, and 45% of the people who didn’t vote at all, voted for Walker on Tuesday. Were all these people deluded by the messages put forward by Walker and his money? That seems to be the implication of the “money in politics in evil” crowd, but it seems to me that any political position that starts out by assuming that your side lost because the voters are stupid is a recipe for failure.
Of course, that isn’t to say that there aren’t advantages to money in a political campaign. The vast sums that he raised in 2008 certainly helped President Obama in the process of organizing and executing a successful primary and general election campaign, for example, and it’s unlikely that either Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich would have made it through February if not for assistance from SuperPACs. However, having money doesn’t guarantee success in politics. One need look no further than the campaigns of men like Rick Perry, Fred Thompson, Rudy Giuliani, and, from back in 1980, John Connolly, for proof of that. Had the people of Wisconsin been truly upset enough with Scott Walker to want to see him driven out of office, all the money in the world probably would not have been able to save him. As it was, the fact that he received more votes, and a higher percentage of the same, than he did in November 2010 would seem to establish that factors other than money were what drove people to the polls on Tuesday.
There is one factor worth noting here, though. The main reason that Walker was able to outraise Barrett by such a huge percentage is because of a quirk in Wisconsin law that allows a sitting Governor subject to a recall election to raise unlimited amounts of money while challengers are restricted to donations of no more than $10,000 per person. I can’t say that I understand the logic behind that law, although it appears to be aimed at giving a sitting Governor a means to raise money to fight legal challenges. Nonetheless, it obviously gives an incumbent a huge advantage over his challenger, something that is generally true of all campaign finance laws. Had Walker been held to the same limit he was in 2010 when he was running for office against Barrett the first time, the fundraising disparity would likely have been about the same as it was in 2010. Would that have changed the outcome? Based on how the election turned out, it seems rather unlikely that it would have. Nonetheless, Wisconsinites might be well advised to take a look at that part of their election law. Or, better yet, get rid of recall elections altogether.
H/T: John Sides
it (the money) created the ambient noise however I doubt that the money changed any minds.
We go through this handwringing over the money all the time. However, if the issue is a highly partisan one I suspect no minds are changed, but the wild card is in turnout and how that plays out. Who changed theirs over Walker? No one.
If it’s a low level issue, one that does not push too many buttons then I suspect that a big money difference will favor the side that received the big money. Here in CA there was a ballot initiative – Prop 29 – that would have imposed a $1 added tax on cigarettes for spending on cancer research – Tobacco Companies spent $45M and pro-tax groups spent $4M. Prop 29 lost by 1% – the money probably made the difference.
Their basic argument seems to be that voters in general are so stupid that they will be swayed by the message they hear on television most frequently, or that voters even pay attention to such inside-the-beltway obsessions as which candidate has raised the most money.
Who is making the argument that beltway discussions of fundraising swayed voters? I have not seen that. As for the intelligence of the electorate, well, you know what Mencken said about underestimating the intelligence of the American public.
Isn’t it possible that people voted for Scott Walker because they agreed with him, or at least because they didn’t believe it was appropriate to initiate a recall under these circumstances?
The majority of pro-Walker advertisements were pushing that very message. They weren’t attacking Barrett, they were attacking the very idea of a recall. The fact that the voters felt this way lends credence to the argument that the money made a difference. The voters agreed with what the big money told them.
Had Walker been held to the same limit he was in 2010 when he was running for office against Barrett the first time, the fundraising disparity would likely have been about the same as it was in 2010.
No, all that extra money would have just gone to SuperPACs. It would have been less well-coordinated, but it still would have been spent to support Walker. The Republican Party saw Walker’s survival as crucial to their larger plan of getting rid of unions nationwide to hobble the Democratic Party.
In the end, your basic argument is that the Republicans are idiots who spent massive amounts of money in Wisconsin when they didn’t have to because the voters are unaffected by political advertising. You have zero evidence this is the case, except some faulty reading of exit polls. Do you really think that political advertising has no effect on voter attitudes? Really?
However, having money doesn’t guarantee success in politics. One need look no further than the campaigns of men like Rick Perry, Fred Thompson, Rudy Giuliani, and, from back in 1980, John Connolly, for proof of that.
There’s a big difference between a 7:1 money advantage in a 2 candidate election and a slight money advantage in a 5-8 candidate primary. A lot more people vote in the former, with a broad range of political knowledge levels, while primaries tend to attract people who are very politically active. Independents and moderates tend not to vote in primaries, and tend to be pretty low information voters who are easily swayed by campaign messages and other influence. That’s where the money advantage in advertising matters (it always matters in ground operation).
THE RECALL GOT HUNDREDS OF MILLION OF DOLLORS WOTH OF ANTI WALKER TV AND PAPER NEWS AROUND HERE AMONG OTHER PLACES!!!!!!!!!!!!
AND THE DONATIONS WERE CLOSE TO THE SAME
WHAT ABOUT THE THOUSNDS AND THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF UNION THUGS AND RANDOM KOOKS BUSESD IN FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY?
HOW ABOUT ALL THE MONEY THESE FOLKS COSTS US IN TAX MONEY OVER AND OVER AGAIN? FOR WHAT? TO GET THE SAME MESSAGE OVER AND OVER AGAIN?
sigh…AND NO I AM NOT YELLING….
PLEASE STOP THIS BUSTED NARATIVE….
It seems a bit wishful to think a 7:1 spending advantage was not influential.
Seth Masket, at the link, seems more than a little disingenuous in claiming this was a repeat of the original Walker-Barrett election except for the money. I seem to remember there having been a fair amount of water under the dam in WI politics in between the two elections in addition to ’10 being a GOP wave election. A year ago Walker’s approval -disapproval was underwater by 13%, now it’s positive by about 5%. Some of that is probably an improving economy (more due to Obama than Walker) but the 30 mil had nothing to do with it? Really?
No one is saying voters are stupid. But they generally don’t pay attention. Yes, they can be swayed by a constant drumbeat of ads. If you can sell bottled water, with enough money you can sell anything, maybe even Mitt Romney. You point out that a lot of WI voters saw the recall itself as illegitimate. You didn’t mention, as Mantis points out, that this was the message of many of the early Walker ads.
“Their basic argument seems to be that voters in general are so stupid that they will be swayed by the message they hear on television most frequently, or that voters even pay attention to such inside-the-beltway obsessions as which candidate has raised the most money.”
Of course, the countervailing argument seems to be that politicians spend a huge percentage of their time raising money for their campaigns, so they clearly believe it accomplishes something significant. Who do you choose to believe, post-hoc rationaizations by people with clear partisan interest in pushing the agenda that money did not matter, or the actual conduct of people who make the decision on whether to raise the money?
Voters in general are stupid, reality TV proves it.
Yes, it’s obvious.
Money doesn’t matter, nor do ads matter.
That’s why companies are making all those ads selling their products.
Because it doesn’t matter.
They just want to give money away.
I didn’t say money doesn’t matter. You cannot run a modern campaign without money. But, all the money in the world would not have saved Walker if the people of Wisconsin really wanted to get rid of him. Unless, again, you believe voters are just mind-numbed robots who do whatever the television tells them to.
Do you believe that average consumers are “mind-numbed robots who do whatever the television tells them to”? If not, why are billions spent on advertising consumer products? Or are the businesses who spend the billions irrational?
Of course advertising works, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
But, again, unless you want to repeal the 1st Amendment and ban political advertisements your observations are irrelevant.
And for that matter, where were all the Democratic millionaires with their money to unseat Walker??????? Hmmmm?????
That’s a particularly vacuous analysis seeing as how it pays no attention to either candidates change in favorability in the intervening 2 years. Barret may have been relatively unchanged, I couldn’t say, but i can say that Walker to a big hit to his personal popularity which miraculous healed as the election neared. That might just have something to do with the massive money spent.
“But, again, unless you want to repeal the 1st Amendment and ban political advertisements your observations are irrelevant.”
Good job of beating up a strawman. What argument was I making that has anything to do with banning advertising? All I did was point out how the arguments that political advertising was meaningless are contradicted by how the people involved acted.
“f course advertising works, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Are you saying that advertising works, except for political advertising? If so, what makes you think that?
Doug, meet the electorate, electorate meet Doug.
Seriously you don’t think that droning repetition has an effect upon people? That people don’t respond (strongly) to the perceived popularity of a message (or messenger)? You can not be that naive. And if you are I’m happy to point you to any number of psychology studies to open your eyes.
Um, didn’t you just completely destroy your own thesis? What does it mean to say “advertising works” except to say that “people will tend to do what the TV tells them to?”
You can;t have it both ways Doug.
And for that matter, where were all the Democratic millionaires with their money to unseat Walker??????? Hmmmm?????
Most millionaires aren’t particularly against union busting. It usually helps them become even richer, as the lack of unions means they can keep more of the profits instead of giving them to those lazy “workers.” But you may accidentally be stumbling on the point here. Millionaires are the only voices that will count in our awesome new world of unlimited anonymous campaign spending. Of course, being a libertarian, I assume you are ok with all of us bending to the will of our superiors, the rich, since they are clearly better than the rest of us.
Only if you believe that the voters are so stupid as to have their core convictions changed by the idiot box.
There’s a difference between buying cereal and voting, and there have been plenty of studies that show that political advertising doesn’t have quite the effect the you seem to think it does. Again, this seems to require you to have a very low opinion of the intelligence of the average voter.
That assumes that the majority of voters have a core conviction with regards to whether Walker or Barret should be governor. That’s an assumption I’d really need supported with evidence because my general feeling from decades of watching politics is that a sizable plurality if not outright majority doesn’t have a core conviction one way or another on pretty much any question of politics. The “low information voter” is the norm, not the exception.
I have a phenomenally low opinion of the average american voter, and with very good cause I’d say (going far far beyond this one election). The evidence is that voters will reliably vote for people who blatantly push their buttons, and consequently we have evolved two parties whose primary tactics are alternating appeals to greed and fear, fear and greed.
Can you really say you think highly of the same people who are routinely swayed by clap trap like the “ground zero mosque”?
Finally I’d be very interested to see these studies that suggest political advertising is ineffective.
It may be hard for us to swallow but most people have far stronger feelings about what cereal to buy than they do about who should be governing their state (or country).
@Doug Mataconis: Doug… most people don’t have such core convictions, it’s part of the reason why we don’t have a higher percentage of the adult population actively voting. It’s the OTB post a few days ago talking about how most people really aren’t political junkies. Most people just don’t care about anything beyond what affects them directly.
As for the stupidity vactor… here’s an example.
The other day George Takai posted a picture of newspaper cliping to his Facebook page where a guy was asking the county offices to move a deer crossing sign to another road becuase there were too many car/deer accidents; as if moving the sign would get deer to cross somewhere else.
If you need more examples of our stupidity I have five words… America’s Funniest Videos on Netflix.
@mantis: @Doug Mataconis:
Mantis – we used to believe in, “One man, one vote.”, now it’s becoming, “One billionaire, one million dollars.”
Doug – I do have a very low opinion of the average voter. I don’t think they’re stupid. I think they have other concerns. Most people I talk to know so little about history, economics, politics, current events, or any other relevant topic, that they are complete naifs. They can’t judge when they’re being lied to. They have only the most rudimentary idea of how the government functions. They have no idea of cause and effect in public policy. But they sure have strong opinions.
You don’t have to change their core convictions to maybe stoke up a little more ressentiment toward supposedly overpaid, under worked public employees. Or give a little more weight to letting an election result stand.
that recall election must have jammed your CAPS LOCK key
Doug repeatedly stating that people must have low opinions of the average voter (in mild contempt, no less) reminds me that Libertarians Are Optimists.
Oddly enough, its common for people to think:
1) The average person is stupid.
2) They’re personally above average.
Generally this is confirmed by noting that the average person disagrees with their own (informed) opinion, which indicates the average person must either be stupid or evil – and no one wants to think everyone is evil.
A Letter of Thanks To The Left
To all leftists, occupiers, union thugs and malcontents,
Thank you! What an election! We couldn’t have done it without you. Without your tantrums, outbursts and boorish behavior we might have stayed home for this election. Without your filthy, pot smoking hemp -headed minions occupying, dirtying and damaging our Capitol we might have been complacent. Without your obnoxious protests, boycotts and other actions from your union playbook, we might have sat this one out.
But you couldn’t hold back. You couldn’t restrain yourselves and behave like adults. You couldn’t accept the 2010 election results. We sat and watched as you erupted in a juvenile hissy fit that embarrassed Wisconsin. The spectacle you created is what motivated us. And thanks to your pathetic behavior, we won. We turned out. Big time! And now we are organized and energized. Committed. “All in”. And we aren’t going away. We now have our own organizations (no dues required), an army of volunteers and the means to communicate. And countless new sources of funding, including a donor base from all 50 states. And we have “iverifythe recall” to ferret out your infiltrators in our future local elections.
So thank you little boy Tate, Graeme Zielinski, Fred “Loonie” Levenhagen, Ismael Ozanne, Maryanne Sumi, Noble Ray, Charles Tubbs, Joanne Kloppenberg, Segway Boy, John Chisolm, public employee union members, UW TA’s, WEAC, SEIU, MTI, AFSCME Council 24 in Union Grove and WI prison guards,. Thanks for the death threats, the intimidation, the bullying, belligerence, thuggery and goonish behavior. The lack of ethics and the failure to enforce rules and laws. Thank you for putting your selfish, greedy motives on display for all taxpayers to see.
Your antics might have made you feel good but they didn’t make you look good. They sickened the rest of us.
Thank you Shirley Abrahamson and Ann Walsh Bradley. Your petty politics woke us up. Thanks you Miles Kristan for dumping the beer on Robin Vos’s head. Thank you University doctors for writing the phony excuses; Madison teachers for calling in sick or dragging your students to the protests without permission. Thank you Katherine Windels for making death threats against the Governor. The noontime capitol singers who taunted Sheboygan high school students. Thank you WEA Trust for raping Wisconsin taxpayers. Thank you Gwen Moore for your embarrassing minstrel show. And thanks all of you for harassing the Walker family at their private home.
You have all been exposed. Your tactics have been rejected. Your bad behavior has been forever captured on You Tube.
Thank you Peter Barca and fellow Assembly members for donning your foolish orange T-shirts and screaming “shame” at legislators just doing their jobs.
Thank you Mark Miller and all 14 senators for fleeing the state and making fools of yourselves in the process. Your combination of childishness and ignorance fits in very well in Illinois. I’m sure you felt right at home. Thanks for showing us what democracy doesn’t look like.
And Mayor Barrett. How grateful we are that you chose one low road after another in your issue-less campaign against the Governor. This was your strike three. You are out. Take a seat on the bench and stay there. I have a hunch this was your final at-bat.
All of you helped turn Wisconsin permanently red. Your Governor, Scott Walker, will not just complete his first term, he is all but assured as many future terms as he seeks. He will be your governor for a long, long time. Get used to it. And his national “rock star” status just might lead him to be your President some day. Just think, it couldn’t have happened without you! So to all of you blue fisters, thank you from the bottom of my happy, red heart.
A Wisconsin taxpayer
> Charlie Sykes: Sykes Writes
A Letter of Thanks To The Left
@george: I get past the false dichotomy of “everyone is either stupid or evil” by being a proponent of Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. This way, some people are stupid, others evil, and still others stupid and evil, a two-for-one.
To be fair, average voters have a low opinion of the average person.
@G.A.: Yes, you won GA. Now those multi-billionaires who bought the election are going to share the spoils of the state with you, because you fought for them. They’ll make sure there are good jobs for the middle class and fair treatment for all citizens, no matter how rich or poor they are.
Man, are you a sucker.
@al-Ameda: If GA were a chicken, he’d be jumping up and down cheering Colonel Sanders for finally getting rid of those uppity hens that were protesting their treatment.
Always interested in seeing solutions. Are there any that work within our system?
Did you guys see where I said that you need to stop with that busted lie about money? lol….
There is no help I fear for your cool aid addictions…..
lol……Oh I will I will…
Hey, I like cool aid, and
you like Kool Aid.
The massive sums raised by Walker early on enabled him to run a major air campaign months in advance of the election and long before either Barrett or Falk were able to afford to do much of anything. And it was a very good campaign; some of the commercials had me thinking that Walker wasn’t so bad, and I loathe Walker and his policies. I can’t believe that getting a huge head start over his opponents wasn’t extremely helpful to Walker.
There’s a lot to be said against recalls in general, even though I believe this one was justified by Walker implementing a radical change in state policy without ever having campaigned on it. I would happily trade recalls for what they have in Ohio, which is the ability to overturn legislation by referenda. I suspect the ending of public sector collective bargaining might well have been overturned by the same electorate that chose not to recall Walker.
And let me say that I really resent being called a “union thug.” I am president of a small union local in Milwaukee. If anyone has any reason to believe that I act as a thug other than that I believe that American citizens should have the right to organize and bargain collectively, I’d like to hear it.
I generally refrain from pointing out that one of Hitler’s first act was to throw most of the leadership of the German trade union movement into prison, because I don’t believe that Republicans are Nazis. But perhaps I should exclude those who equate believing in the value of unions with thuggery.
TV advertisements convinced Americans that they stink if they didn’t buy deodorant. Body odder was not an issue before TV advertising. To think that massive advertising blitzes won’t impact elections is just plain silly.
ya, pick on a brother cause he can’t remember what spelling of Kook surup he used every other time….
union thug is a term to be used on union thugs If you ain’t don’t worry, if you don’t believe in them all together you need to hit some history books or Youtube.
If you need to do something do it, no one said you can’t organize or collectivly bargin.I belive much of this is protected under http://wilawlibrary.gov/topics/laborlaw/index.php
But even in commercial advertising, the company that spends the most on advertising doesn’t necessarily sell the most product – there are a lot of examples of huge advertising campaigns which were complete wastes of money (new Coke, the Edsel etc). You need some advertising to get into the game (politically or in selling cosmetics). But I don’t think its obvious that spending the most guarantees you either winning an election, or taking over a market.
In the case of this recall, I wonder if the problem was simply that a lot of people (on all sides of the political compass) simply don’t like recalls on principle, and voted accordingly.
You might want to check in with Karl Rove to see how permanent/durable Republican Majorities tend to go…
I think it’s possible to agree that advertising matters, and also understand that there are diminishing returns to such.
That is… it’s important to have enough money to get your message out so voters hear it. I’m not sure it’s important to have enough money to match or exceed your opponent’s ads.
The margin of victory for Walker in the recall looks an awful lot like the margin in the original election (in which the Dems ran the same candidate, FFS).
You just wait until Walker puts the Bible back in school as the main text book and see what happens:)