10% donate to presidential campaigns via cellphone, Pew study finds

A new study suggests that donating through text messages has quickly become a notable part of political fundraising, with about one in 10 presidential campaign donors giving money to the candidates by cellphone.

The analysis by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project also found that Democrats were more likely to contribute to President Obama’s campaign either online or through a cellphone, while supporters of Mitt Romney leaned toward donating by mail, phone or in person.

Overall, of those who said they had contributed to one of the two candidates this year, 67 percent had given through traditional means; 50 percent had given online or through e-mail; and 10 percent had given through a text message or cellphone app.

Although still a small part of the overall funding stream, the cellphone finding is notable given that neither the Obama nor Romney campaigns began collecting through text messages until late August, about a month before the Pew surveys were conducted.

“The fact that in less than a month, 10 percent of donors have contributed this way is impressive,” said Aaron Smith, a Pew research associate who helped conduct the analysis. “It speaks to the centrality of mobile devices in all aspects of people’s lives.”

The campaigns moved quickly to incorporate the text-to-donate option after a series of decisions by the Federal Election Commission approving their use. The contributions, which are charged to a donor’s wireless bill, are limited to less than $50 per month and $200 per election cycle.

Neither campaign has revealed how much money it has raised via text. But disclosure reports suggest that the Obama campaign has been far more aggressive, spending $85,000 on fees to a third-party aggregation firm last month compared with less than $1,200 for Romney.

Deputy Editor, National Politics

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