Ideologically Sophisticated Donors: Which Candidates Do Individual Contributors Finance?

TitleIdeologically Sophisticated Donors: Which Candidates Do Individual Contributors Finance?
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsBarber MJ, Canes-Wrone B, Thrower S
JournalAmerican Journal of Political Science
Date Publishedapr
ISBN Number1540-5907
AbstractIndividual contributors far outpace political action committees (PACs) as the largest source of campaign financing, yet recent scholarship has largely focused on PAC giving. Moreover, the literature on individual contributors questions whether they sophisticatedly differentiate among candidates according to their policy positions and spheres of influence, particularly among same-party candidates. We analyze this question by combining data from a new survey of over 2,800 in- and out-of-state donors associated with the 2012 Senate elections, FEC data on contributors' professions, and legislative records. Three major findings emerge. First, policy agreement between a donor's positions and Senator's roll calls significantly influences the likelihood of giving, even for same-party contributors. Second, there is a significant effect of committee membership corresponding to a donor's occupation; this holds even for donors who claim that other motivations dominate. Third, conditional upon a donation occurring, its size is determined by factors outside a legislator's control.