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More Americans Making Political Donations

cmdi | Mon Jan 23, 2023

Good news for political fundraisers! According to data from the American National Election Studies and Pew Research, more Americans made donations to political candidates and parties in 2016 than previous years. Since 1992, the percentage of Americans donating to at least one political candidate, party, or PAC increased from 11% to 15% in 2016.

• Donations to individual candidates doubled. Since 1992, the number of Americans donating to an individual candidate doubled from 6% to 12%.

• Political party donations more than doubled. While not as big of an increase, Americans donating to a political party increased from 4% in 1992 to 9% in 2016.

• PAC donations doubled but still have fewer donors. Despite heightened media attention, contributions to “outside groups working to elect or defeat a candidate – such as political action committees” only grew from 3% in 1992 to 6% in 2016.

Who is most likely to donate?

Since 1992, Republicans held a slight edge in likely donor with 15% over 14% for Democrats. However, in 2016, Democrats were twice as likely to donate during the election.

While President Trump had fewer numbers of donors, he raised significantly more money from under $200 gifts than Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and both of President Obama’s campaigns.

The Campaign Finance Institute reports that Trump raised $239 million from small donors through a joint fundraising committee with the Republican National Committee. This amounted to 69% of individual donations, and 58% of total funds raised.

How much do they give?

55% of political donors in the U.S. reported giving $100 or less during the 2016 cycle. Only 13% reported contributing more than $250.

What does a likely donor look like?

According to Pew, donors share several characteristics:

  • They vote. 21% of respondents claimed to “always or nearly always” vote gave in the past year. Only 4% of self-described “seldom voters” made a donation.

  • They follow politics. Among respondents admitting to following politics most of the time, 28% said they donated in 2016. Among those who do not follow politics very often, only 7% gave.

  • They are affluent. Not surprisingly, donors with higher household incomes gave more. In households making $150,000 or more, 32% donated in 2016. Within this group, 27% said they gave more than $250. For middle class households, 22% of households earning $75,000-$150,000 made a political donation. Among these middle-class donors, 16% gave $250 or more. A total of 16% of those making between $30,000-$75,000 made a political donation, and only 7% of those earning under $30,000 contributed.

  • They are educated. After income, education is the next likely factor to making political donations. Nearly half of those making a political donation in 2016 held a college or postgraduate degree. Only 7% with a high school degree or less contributed.

  • They are older. Older Americans gave the most. 32% of political donors were 65 and older. 14% of those aged 50-64, 12% of those 30 to 49, and 9% of those 18 to 29 made political donations.

Overall, this is a good time for Republicans raising money. With the rise of online donations and small-dollar contributions, political giving is far more accessible and common than it was 25 years ago. While only 15% of Americans from both parties are likely to give, more and more people are engaged and helping candidates. This is good news for first-time candidates looking to build a list and start a housefile.

Given the continued success of Republican fundraising during an off-year, there’s no reason for 2018 campaigns to wait until January to get started!