The stagnant cycle of polarization and campaign spending in US politics

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Sam Brown

Political campaigns spend a large amount of money trying to influence votes.

Sam Brown, Copy editor

As this year’s midterm elections wrap up and the relentless advertising campaigns begin to cease, many statistics emerge regarding the election. One often overlooked data point is campaign spending. 

Every election cycle, all the funds raised and spent on advertising, travel and other campaign expenditures are totaled, producing a number for the ‘campaign spending’ of that cycle. For the 2020 presidential election, campaign spending was a record 14 billion dollars. The 2022 midterm elections are expected to have approximately 9 billion dollars in campaign spending.

These large numbers represent a larger trend of  increased campaign spending. Joe Youngbauer, a government teacher at PV, recognizes the heightened spending. “The amount of spending right now is mind boggling. When you think about the T.V. Ads, the staff and the travel, it just goes up and up and up,” he said.

The recent extreme polarization of the political parties has fueled more donations and provided campaigns with larger budgets.

Voters eager to prevent the perceived doomsday that would result from an opposing candidate’s election have contributed to politicians’ campaigns at record levels. During the 2020 election cycle, roughly 50% of the 1 Billion dollars Trump raised came from small individual contributions of less than $200. 

As more information is made available to the public about campaign spending, many have begun to question whether these large sums of donated money are being effectively used. 

Billions of dollars hold power; Power that has potential to directly benefit the lives of millions of Americans but is often wasted on ad campaigns that attack, dismiss and refute opposing candidates and political parties. 

Historically, campaign advertisements were used to inform voters of a candidate’s values and goals. Now campaign advertising has taken a different form. “I do think that there is a role for candidates and campaigns to inform,” Youngbauer said. “But half of the ads, maybe even more, are attacking the opponent as opposed to informing voters of what candidates stand for.”

Many young voters have grown tired of the advertising and overspending of elections. Senior Libby Kamp, a first time voter, does not think the ads are a good investment. “I have seen numerous campaign ads. The advertising campaigns did not make a difference in my vote and I definitely think that the funds raised on campaigns could be used in better, more productive ways,” she said.  

The alarming magnitude and use of campaign funds reveals flaws in American politics. While citizens will continue to donate and support campaigns to protect their interests, politicians and political parties need to reform the manner in which they allocate the money. Instead of using the funds to attack opposing people or ideas and further the cycle of polarization, politicians should put the money towards progressing the country as a whole.