The United States’ Election System Can Learn A Few Things From Western European Countries


The current United States presidential elections have been steeped in controversy over the massive campaign spending, slanderous attack ads, and accusations that are, pure and simply, lies. Campaign spending for the 2012 U.S. elections will reach $6 billion dollars (£3.825 billion, 4.9 billion euros), according to Reuters. President Barack Obama alone is expected to raise $1 billion. Clearly all this is a huge problem; in the current system, essentially, the candidate or party who spends the most wins.

Here are a few examples of the attack ads released by these candidates or Super Pacs that support them:

This kind of ad is truly despicable, and it is what much of these $6 billion are being spent creating.

So what can be done? Well, its simple. Regulate campaign financing and televised ads, as they do in Western Europe. Let’s use France as an example. For a start, there is a ceiling on the amount of campaign spending: for presidential candidates, around 16 million euros ($20 million dollars, £12.5 million) in the first round, and about 21 million euros in the second round ($25.8 million dollars, £16.5 million). It’s a lot of money, but nothing compared to a billion dollars. Further more, part of the candidates’ funding comes from the state. Candidates are not allowed to run paid advertisements in the media, including television, but are, however, given ad time on state television and radio. Corporate groups can not fund candidates, and neither can any other kind of group except political parties. There are also limits on the amount an individual can give to a campaign.

The United States definitely needs to change its electoral system, and the systems of France and other Western European countries would be good models for a reformed U.S. system.

The Library of Congress page on Campaign Finance in France ( was used as a reference for this essay

Election posters in Dordogne, France

Presidential election posters in Dordogne, Aquitaine, France


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