Politics

Few candidates have loyal small-dollar donor bases

Compare how candidates stack up in small-dollar donors — and how many of their donors overlap

Small dollar donors: 26,804

Donations total: $678,823

Small dollar donors: 248,038

Donations total: $8,515,018

Small dollar donors: 95,382

Donations total: $1,937,610

Small dollar donors: 16,131

Donations total: $450,418

Small dollar donors: 377,385

Donations total: $15,223,009

Small dollar donors: 108,691

Donations total: $2,485,089

Small dollar donors: 6,121

Donations total: $100,547

Small dollar donors: 6,152

Donations total: $148,856

Small dollar donors: 87,977

Donations total: $2,208,277

Small dollar donors: 74,609

Donations total: $1,445,086

Small dollar donors: 266,979

Donations total: $10,349,774

Small dollar donors: 11,828

Donations total: $432,423

Small dollar donors: 75,569

Donations total: $2,093,144

Small dollar donors: 75,605

Donations total: $3,162,640

Small dollar donors: 1,287

Donations total: $28,551

Small dollar donors: 13,300

Donations total: $302,252

Small dollar donors: 184,074

Donations total: $7,645,672

Small dollar donors: 10,039

Donations total: $252,648

Small dollar donors: 747,268

Donations total: $30,346,071

Small dollar donors: 410,923

Donations total: $16,915,551

Small dollar donors: 75,153

Donations total: $1,947,074

Small dollar donors: 126,657

Donations total: $2,843,543

22.8%

of donors also donated
to Elizabeth Warren

Small dollar donors: 26,804

Donations total: $678,823

Small dollar donors: 248,038

Donations total: $8,515,018

Small dollar donors: 95,382

Donations total: $1,937,610

Small dollar donors: 16,131

Donations total: $450,418

Small dollar donors: 377,385

Donations total: $15,223,009

Small dollar donors: 108,691

Donations total: $2,485,089

Small dollar donors: 6,121

Donations total: $100,547

Small dollar donors: 6,152

Donations total: $148,856

Small dollar donors: 87,977

Donations total: $2,208,277

Small dollar donors: 74,609

Donations total: $1,445,086

Small dollar donors: 266,979

Donations total: $10,349,774

Small dollar donors: 11,828

Donations total: $432,423

Small dollar donors: 75,569

Donations total: $2,093,144

Small dollar donors: 75,605

Donations total: $3,162,640

Small dollar donors: 1,287

Donations total: $28,551

Small dollar donors: 13,300

Donations total: $302,252

Small dollar donors: 184,074

Donations total: $7,645,672

Small dollar donors: 10,039

Donations total: $252,648

Small dollar donors: 747,268

Donations total: $30,346,071

Small dollar donors: 410,923

Donations total: $16,915,551

Small dollar donors: 75,153

Donations total: $1,947,074

Small dollar donors: 126,657

Donations total: $2,843,543

14.8%

of donors also donated
to Kamala Harris

About one-fifth of Democratic donors have given to multiple candidates, suggesting many haven’t settled on a favorite in a crowded field of presidential contenders.

More than 2.3 million people made “small-dollar” donations – $200 or less – to Democratic presidential candidates in the first half of the year.

Twenty-one donors gave to 20 or more candidates – nearly all of those running in the primaries – a sign of how the new Democratic National Committee debate qualifications for candidates have affected donors’ giving.

This is a significant shift from previous presidential primaries, when candidates would vie for maxed-out checks from wealthy donors to help them survive the lengthy and expensive primary fight. This year, campaigns must dominate the small-dollar game as well. Yet many of the candidates are tapping into similar donor pools whose loyalties may not reliably translate into votes.

Sanders had the most loyal donor base

Proportion of each candidate’s donors that gave exclusively to them

0

20%

40%

60%

80%

Sanders

Yang

Biden

O’Rourke

Buttigieg

Warren

Harris

Klobuchar

Booker

Castro

Candidates shown are those that qualify or

are close to qualifying for the next debate.

The loyalty of donors varied widely across candidates. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) had the most-loyal donors, with over 80 percent giving exclusively to him. Andrew Yang, a former tech entrepreneur, followed close behind.

Former housing and urban development secretary Julian Castro and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) had the least-loyal donors. For each, about 60 percent of their donors also gave to other candidates.

These findings come from a Washington Post analysis of small-dollar giving based on recently released ActBlue data, reported by the Federal Election Commission. ActBlue is an online fundraising platform that processes the majority of small-dollars donations for all major Democratic presidential candidates.

How multi-donors divvied funds

For the five highest-polling candidates,

here is the share of their donors who

also gave to another candidate.

5%

10%

20%

Biden

Buttigieg

Harris

Sanders

Warren

Biden

Booker

Buttigieg

Castro

Gabbard

Gillibrand

Harris

Inslee

Klobuchar

O’Rourke

Sanders

Warren

Yang

23% of Harris donors

also gave to Warren

Note: Additional candidates shown on the left

are the eight candidates with the most

donor overlap with any of the top five candidates.

For the five highest-polling candidates, here is the share

of their donors who also gave to another candidate.

5%

10%

20%

Biden

Buttigieg

Harris

Sanders

Warren

Biden

Booker

Buttigieg

Castro

Gabbard

Gillibrand

Harris

Inslee

Klobuchar

O’Rourke

Sanders

Warren

Yang

23% of Harris donors

also gave to Warren

Note: Additional candidates shown on the left

are the eight candidates with the most donor overlap

with any of the top five candidates.

For five the highest-polling candidates, here is the share of their

donors who also gave to another candidate.

5%

10%

20%

Only 1% of Sanders

donors also

gave to Biden

Biden

Buttigieg

Harris

Sanders

Warren

Biden

Booker

Buttigieg

Castro

Gabbard

Gillibrand

Harris

Inslee

Klobuchar

O’Rourke

Sanders

Warren

Yang

23% of Harris donors

also gave to Warren

Note: Additional candidates shown on the left are the eight candidates

with the most donor overlap with any of the top five candidates.

For the five highest-polling candidates, here is the share of their

donors who also gave to another candidate.

5%

10%

20%

Only 1% of Sanders

donors also gave to Biden

Biden

Buttigieg

Harris

Sanders

Warren

Biden

Booker

Buttigieg

Castro

Gabbard

Gillibrand

Harris

Inslee

Klobuchar

O’Rourke

Sanders

Warren

Yang

23% of Harris donors

also gave to Warren

15% of Warren donors

also gave to Sanders

Note: Additional candidates shown on the left are the eight candidates with the most donor overlap

with any of the top five candidates.

For the five highest-polling candidates, here is the share of their

donors who also gave to another candidate.

5%

10%

20%

Only 1% of Sanders donors

also gave to Biden

Biden

Buttigieg

Harris

Sanders

Warren

Biden

Booker

Buttigieg

Castro

Gabbard

Gillibrand

Harris

Inslee

Klobuchar

15% of Warren

donors also

gave to Harris

O’Rourke

Sanders

Warren

Yang

23% of Harris donors

also gave to Warren

Note: Additional candidates shown on the left are the eight candidates with the most donor overlap

with any of the top five candidates.

Among the five highest-polling candidates candidates, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) had the largest share of donors who also gave to someone else. Nearly a quarter of her donors – 61,000 – also gave to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Of these shared donors, thousands also gave to Sanders, Castro or South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg as a third donation.

[Listen on Post Reports: Anu Narayanswamy talks to the small-dollar donors shaping the Democratic primary.]

Warren and Sanders shared 60,000 donors, as Warren increasingly gains support from those who backed Sanders in 2016.

Donors to the five highest-polling candidates were most likely to also give to other high-polling candidates. But Sanders donors also gave at high rates to Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii). She was more popular among Sanders donors than any other Democratic candidates besides Warren.

In 2016, Gabbard stepped down as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee to endorse Sanders, something his supporters have not forgotten. In most cases, as seen below, shared donors gave more money to Sanders.

Who won the money game among shared donors

Here are the candidates who shared the

most donors. Despite the overlap, many

donors still seemed to show a preference

for a candidate in their contributions.

77% of shared donors gave more

6% gave equally

Sanders

Gabbard

17%

Sanders

Warren

37%

51%

Warren

Castro

61%

19%

Warren

Buttigieg

47%

29%

Harris

Warren

43%

28%

Booker

Harris

20%

52%

Harris

Castro

49%

24%

Harris

Biden

43%

39%

Buttigieg

O’Rourke

47%

35%

Buttigieg

Harris

34%

38%

Here are the candidates who shared the most donors.

Despite the overlap, many donors still seemed to

show a preference for a candidate in their contributions.

77% of shared donors gave more

6% gave equally

Sanders

Gabbard

17%

Sanders

Warren

37%

51%

Warren

Castro

61%

19%

Warren

Buttigieg

47%

29%

Harris

Warren

43%

28%

Booker

Harris

20%

52%

Harris

Castro

49%

24%

Harris

Biden

43%

39%

Buttigieg

O’Rourke

47%

35%

Buttigieg

Harris

34%

38%

Here are the candidates who shared the most donors. Despite

the overlap, many donors still seemed to show a preference

for a candidate in their contributions.

6% gave equally

Sanders

77% of shared donors gave more

17%

Gabbard

37%

Sanders

51%

Warren

Warren

61%

19%

Castro

Warren

47%

29%

Buttigieg

Harris

Warren

43%

28%

20%

Booker

Harris

52%

49%

Harris

24%

Castro

Harris

43%

39%

Biden

Buttigieg

47%

35%

O’Rourke

Buttigieg

34%

Harris

38%

Here are the candidates who shared the most donors. Despite the overlap,

many donors still seemed to show a preference for a candidate in their contributions.

6% gave equally

Sanders

77% of shared donors gave more to Sanders

17%

Gabbard

37%

Sanders

51%

Warren

Warren

61%

19%

Castro

Warren

47%

29%

Buttigieg

Harris

Warren

43%

28%

20%

Booker

Harris

52%

49%

Harris

24%

Castro

Harris

43%

39%

Biden

Buttigieg

47%

35%

O’Rourke

Buttigieg

34%

Harris

38%

Here are the candidates who shared the most donors. Despite the overlap, many donors

still seemed to show a preference for one candidate in their contributions.

6% gave equally

Sanders

77% of shared donors gave more to Sanders

17%

Gabbard

37%

Sanders

51%

Warren

Warren

61%

19%

Castro

Warren

47%

29%

Buttigieg

Harris

Warren

43%

28%

20%

Booker

Harris

52%

49%

Harris

24%

Castro

Harris

43%

39%

Biden

Buttigieg

47%

35%

O’Rourke

Buttigieg

34%

Harris

38%

For the biggest donor overlaps, more people generally gave a greater contribution to the higher-polling candidate. But that was not the case for donors who gave to Buttigieg and Harris, where slightly more gave a greater donation to Buttigieg.

Similarly, more shared donors gave a higher contribution to Harris than former vice president Joe Biden. Her donations from Biden donors spiked after their debate debut, where Harris challenged Biden’s civil rights record.

Kate Rabinowitz

Kate Rabinowitz is a Graphics Reporter at The Washington Post. She previously worked at Propublica. She joined The Post in 2018.

Shelly Tan

Shelly Tan is a graphics reporter and illustrator specializing in pop culture. She designs and develops interactive graphics.

Anu Narayanswamy and Michelle Ye Hee Lee contributed to this report.

About this story

This analysis is based on data from ActBlue, an online fundraising platform used by all major Democratic presidential candidates that was made available by the Federal Elections Commission last week. The data covers the first six months of 2019 and was limited to donations of $200 or less.

The Washington Post estimated unique donors by looking at donation records that shared a first name, last name, street address and zip code.

Former congressman Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) and billionaire Tom Steyer were excluded from the analysis because they announced their candidacies too late to file an FEC report before June 30.

Photos: AP, Getty Images, EPA-EFE/REX and lawmaker offices.

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