Saturday, September 28, 2013

Women and Campaign Contributions

While the marginal effect of fundraising and campaign spending is contested, these measurements offer one method to identify trends and predict the results of political campaigns.

A recent study, conducted by the Center of Responsive Politics, shows that there is a significant gender gap in campaign contributions. In fact, the percentage of federal contributions that come from women has remained mostly static for the past 23 years, only increasing from 22% in 1990 to 25% so far in 2013. Yet the representation of women in Congress has increased more dramatically, with the percentage of women in the House increasing from 7% in 1990 to 18% in 2013. This shows that men and women do not make their contribution decisions based solely on descriptive representation of gender, and one’s party identification is a stronger influence. With the gender gap in party identification, women are more likely to contribute to Democratic candidates, with working women leaning to the left, and homemakers leaning to right. 

Still, the study shows that descriptive representation is a factor when it comes to campaign contributions. Female Democrats receive the largest proportion of contributions from women, and male Republicans receive the smallest proportion of contributions from women. In 2012, female Democratic Senator Jan Schakowsky of Illinois received the highest proportion of contributions from women with 65% of contributions coming from women. Compare that to male Republic Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi, who only received 12.4% of contributions from women in 2012. Holding the party constant, we can compare Jan Schakowsky’s 65% to male Democratic Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, with only 16.9% of his contributions coming from women in 2012.

Six billion dollars were spent on campaigns in 2012, so it is evident that fundraising is an essential aspect of campaigns. Although there are many factors affecting the under-representation of women in Congress, if women want more descriptive representation in politics, they can be proactive by helping to close the gender gap in campaign contributions and giving more to the campaigns of female candidates.

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  1. I really like how connected this post is to what we discussed in class. I would be interested to see how campaign contributions play out on a state basis. Meaning if a woman and a man are running in the same party in the same state, what wins out, gender or specific platforms? I also find it interesting that you make the claim women can close the gender gap by being proactive and donating more. While I do believe that women have a large presence when it comes to politics, I also think they're a lot more likely to donate to campaigns than men are. While by giving female candidates more money they can help them get farther in a campaign, but when it comes down to the polls, is that really all it takes to get elected?

    -Maddie J

  2. The data about percent of contributions from women is very interesting. It seems that it's more about gender than the party, since the male democratic candidate received so much less than the female and only slightly more than the republican male candidate. However, I do not think that women giving more donations to female candidates would greatly change the amount of female representatives in Congress. Money is important, but it is not the only factor.

  3. Because there has been an increase in the number of women in the House despite a fairly stagnant number of campaign contributions coming from women over the past few decades, do you think symbolic representation has played a large role in the increase in female representatives?