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Who gives the most to campaigns? Men or women?

A new study shows who gives what and to whom when it comes to political campaigns.  The report, called “Money in Politics with a Gender Lens,” put out by the National Council for Research on Women and in collaboration with the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University’s Eagleton Institute of Politics and the Center for Responsive Politics,  shows that men give more than women, notably in the mega-donor, high-roller category.

Since the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision in January of 2010, campaigns have been awash in money at every level.  And the trend will likely continue this year, with the U.S. Senate up for grabs and competitive House and governor’s races across the country.  With a likely bumper crop of female candidates and active outside groups, it will be interesting to see how this year stacks up with other off-year elections when it comes to women giving to campaigns.

Here are three takeaways from the report:

1.  Women invest in campaigns at lower rates

While the 2008 pre-Citizens United presidential campaign represented a high water mark for women in terms of percentage of giving, in 2010 and 2012 it dropped.  Based on the past three cycles, women average about 30 percent of the campaign donor pool. At higher levels of giving, the so-called mega-donors, the gap is greater.  The data suggest that women are more apt to give in presidential cycles and that level of donor engagement seems to correlate to good years for Democrats.


But although women still give less than men, they are part of an overall trend of both groups giving more.  In 2012, men gave $2.9 billion while women gave $2.3 billion, according to the report.  The reason? A study done in 2007 by the Women’s Campaign fund suggests that women are more likely to see voting and volunteering as part of their civic responsibilities, not donating to campaigns. The study also revealed that, at the time, women weren’t as likely to see a connection between money and political change and leadership.


2. Women give to people, not groups. 

Women vastly upped their contributions to outside groups in 2012 — men saw a 10-fold increase and women saw a 20-fold increase.  But men still gave more than 4 times what women gave in 2012.  And men go to outside groups at a higher rate.  In 2010, men gave 3.5 percent of their total contributions to outside groups, while women gave only 1.2 percent.  In 2012, a presidential cycle, the percentages jumped for both men and women — men gave 18.5 percent of their total donations to outside groups, and women gave 11.1 percent. The report does suggest a new trend — more outside groups on both sides of the aisle dedicated to electing women.


3.  Large donors are less likely to be women

In 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama relied on small dollar donations, raising some $114 million from people giving $200 or less.  But still, his campaign, as do most campaigns, rely much more heavily on large dollar donations, and those donors are much, much more likely to be men.  In 2012, 11 of the 100 top individual donors to candidates and outside groups were women, and 88 were men.  (According to a footnote in the study, the gender of one donor could not be ascertained.) In 2010, there were 17 women in the top 100, and in 2008, 20 of the top donors were women. Mega-donations often come with access to candidates and campaigns, and the gender gap worsens at higher levels of giving.


Nia-Malika Henderson is a political reporter for The Fix.

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