The number of Americans who would like to see changes in the way political campaigns are conducted has increased sharply from a survey taken shortly after the 1976 presidential election.
Currently, as many as two-thirds of adults (66 percent) favor changes in the conduct of political campaigns. The comparable figure in 1976 was 54 percent.
Leading the list of complaints this year are the length of campaigns and the amount of mudslinging. Next on the list are the lack of issue-discussion and the campaign costs.
To a certain extent, the widespread voter apathy experienced this year can be attributed to the length of the presidential campaign and the way it was conducted. Voter turnout on Nov. 4 was the lowest since 1948. The latest figures show that only 52.2 percent of eligible voters bothered to turn up at the polls.
The current survey indicates that the public wants to put even tighter limits on campaign spending than those already in effect. Ingrained in the thinking of many Americans is the belief that every person should have an equal opportunity to run for office and that money should not be a deciding factor.
The public also believes the federal government should provide a fixed amount of money for the election campaigns of candidates for Congress and at the same time prohibit all other contributions. In the latest survey on this topic 57 percent favor public financing for congressional candidates; 30 percent are opposed.
Others want to see presidential election campaigns "cleaned up."
"I don't think it is right to get up there and run the other person down," commented one survey respondent. "Why can't they just spell out their own platform -- what they are going to do -- and let the other person do the same."
Among other suggestions:
Eliminate the Electoral College, basing the election of the president on the popular vote.
Replace the many state primaries with a single national primary or with regional primaries.
Increase the number of television debates and build these into the electoral process.