Small Campaign Donors

123 Pages Posted: 7 Dec 2021 Last revised: 11 May 2022

See all articles by Laurent Bouton

Laurent Bouton

Georgetown University - Department of Economics

Julia Cage

Sciences Po Paris Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Edgard Dewitte

Sciences Po - Department of Economics

Vincent Pons

Harvard University - Business School (HBS)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: December 6, 2021

Abstract

We study the characteristics and behavior of small campaign donors and compare them to large donors by building a dataset including all the 340 million individual contributions reported to the U.S. Federal Election Commission between 2005 and 2020. Thanks to the reporting requirements of online fundraising platforms first used by Democrats (ActBlue) and now Republicans (WinRed), we observe contribution-level information on the vast majority of small donations. We first show that the number of small donors (donors who do not give more than $200 to any committee during a two-year electoral cycle) and their total contributions have been growing rapidly. Second, small donors include more women and more ethnic minorities than large donors, but their geographical distribution does not differ much. Third, using a saturated fixed effects model, we find that race closeness, candidate ideological extremeness, whether candidates and donors live in the same district or state, and whether they have the same ethnicity increase contributions, with lower effects for small donors. Finally, we show that campaign TV ads affect the number and size of contributions to congressional candidates, particularly for small donors, indicating that pull factors are relevant to explain their behavior.

Keywords: Campaign finance, Campaign contributions, Small donations, ActBlue, WinRed, TV advertising

JEL Classification: D72, M37, P16

Suggested Citation

Bouton, Laurent and Cage, Julia and Dewitte, Edgard and Pons, Vincent, Small Campaign Donors (December 6, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3978318 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3978318

Laurent Bouton

Georgetown University - Department of Economics ( email )

Washington, DC 20057
United States

Julia Cage

Sciences Po Paris Department of Economics ( email )

28 Rue des Saints-Pères
Paris, 75007
France

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

London
United Kingdom

Edgard Dewitte (Contact Author)

Sciences Po - Department of Economics ( email )

28, rue des Saints peres
Paris, 75007
France

Vincent Pons

Harvard University - Business School (HBS) ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

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