Election 2020

Bernie Sanders won the race for Democratic donors in 2019

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was the standout Democratic presidential fundraiser of 2019, with 1.4 million donors from across the country. Sanders, who is surging in the polls as Iowa’s caucuses open Monday, entered 2020 with at least $18 million — more than any of his Democratic rivals who are not self-funded billionaires.

Where candidates earned the most donors

Zip codes are colored based on the candidate with the most donors. Darker shapes indicate more donors.

Use two fingers to pan around the map.
Pinch to zoom.
Sanders

Sanders

Warren

Warren

Biden

Biden

Buttigieg

Buttigieg

Klobuchar

Klobuchar

Using campaign finance records, we took a look at nearly every Democratic donor who gave to a presidential campaign in 2019. And for the first time, we were able to compare the state of the Democratic presidential field’s online small-dollar fundraising with President Trump’s, using data from the two platforms that process such donations: ActBlue for Democrats and WinRed for Republicans.

Democratic candidates tended to draw the most donor support from their home states, but the U.S. senator from Vermont built a sprawling donor base from coast to coast.

[Iowa caucuses updates: First votes will be cast tonight]

What type of donors did each candidate attract?

Income and demographics data tell us which Democratic candidates had the greatest appeal to certain communities of donors. For example, donors in the highest-income neighborhoods preferred Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg and former vice president Joe Biden, according to an analysis of census and campaign finance data.

Klobuchar’s donors come from the

highest-income neighborhoods

The median donor to Amy Klobuchar’s campaign came from a Zip code with a median household income of about $76,000.

U.S.

median

$20k

$40k

$60,300

0

Klobuchar

Buttigieg

Biden

Warren

Yang

Steyer

Gabbard

Sanders

Klobuchar’s donors come from the

highest-income neighborhoods

The median donor to Amy Klobuchar’s campaign came from a Zip code with a median household income of about $76,000.

U.S. median

$20,000

$40,000

$60,300

0

Klobuchar

Buttigieg

Biden

Warren

Yang

Steyer

Gabbard

Sanders

The racial breakdown of donors per candidate provides a glimpse of each candidate’s appeal to diverse communities. For example, just 79 percent of Yang’s donors came from Zip codes that had more white people than any other candidate — the smallest share of any candidate.

Sanders’s and Yang’s donations come

from the most diverse neighborhoods

White plurality Zip codes

Hispanic

Black

Asian

Yang

79% of donors

11

5

5

Sanders

81

12

5

Gabbard

83

9

Warren

85

8

6

Biden

7

6

85

Steyer

85

8

Buttigieg

88

6

Klobuchar

92

Sanders’s and Yang’s donations come from the most

diverse neighborhoods

White plurality Zip codes

Hispanic

Black

Asian

79% of donors

11

5

5

Yang

81

12

5

Sanders

83

9

4

4

Gabbard

85

8

6

Warren

7

6

Biden

85

85

8

4

Steyer

88

6

4

Buttigieg

92

4

Klobuchar

More than 90 percent of the donors who gave to the campaign of Amy Klobuchar, who has also seen her fortunes rise in recent weeks, came from white neighborhoods.

Sanders built the most loyal donor base throughout 2019

1.5M unique donors

Sanders 1.38M

1M

Warren 884k

Buttigieg 728k

500k

Biden 448k

Yang 367k

Klobuchar 226k

Gabbard 215k

Steyer 214k

Bennet 63k

Patrick 52k

0

Jan. 2019

July 2019

Jan. 2020

1.5 million unique donors

Sanders 1.38M

1,000,000

Warren 884k

Buttigieg 728k

500,000

Biden 448k

Yang 367k

Klobuchar 226k

Gabbard 215k

Steyer 214k

Bennet 63k

Patrick 52k

0

April 2019

July 2019

Oct. 2019

Jan. 2020

Jan. 2019

1.5 million unique donors

Sanders 1.38M

1,000,000

Warren 884k

Buttigieg 728k

500,000

Biden 448k

Yang 367k

Klobuchar 226k

Gabbard 215k

Steyer 214k

Bennet 63k

Patrick 52k

0

April 2019

July 2019

Oct. 2019

Jan. 2020

Jan. 2019

Donors played a big role in the Democratic presidential primaries throughout 2019, particularly in helping candidates reach donor thresholds to qualify to compete on the national debate stage. Sanders’s donor base spiked in the final quarter of 2019, when he garnered hundreds of thousands of new donors — a remarkable political revival for the candidate, who had a slow summer and whose heart attack in October raised doubts about how long he would remain in the race.

Sanders donors are pretty loyal

Donors giving to multiple Democratic candidates in the second half of 2019

Share of each candidate’s donors who gave to ...

Only 1 active candidate

2

3+

Sanders donors

85%

6%

3

Warren donors

73

9

7

Buttigieg donors

73

7

7

9

Biden donors

74

8

9

Gave to some other

Democrat not listed

Note: Does not include donations to candidates who have dropped out.

Sanders donors are pretty loyal

Donors giving to multiple Democratic candidates in the second half of 2019

Share of each candidate’s donors who gave to ...

Only one active candidate

2 candidates

3+

Sanders

donors

4

85%

6%

3

Warren

donors

73

9

5

5

7

Buttigieg

donors

73

7

7

9

Biden

donors

74

4

8

9

Gave to some other

Democrat not listed

Note: Does not include donations to candidates who have dropped out.

What stands out about Sanders’s donors is their loyalty, which is particularly difficult to achieve in such a crowded primary. Many of these loyal donors gave repeatedly to Sanders through a recurring donation program, injecting as little as $2.70 or $5 to his campaign on a regular basis.

Gabbard donors also love Sanders

Donors giving to multiple Democratic candidates in the second half of 2019

Share

of

Sanders

Warren

Buttigieg

Biden

Gabbard donors who also gave to ...

17%

4%

4%

2%

Klobuchar donors who also gave to ...

14

18

4

11

Steyer donors who also gave to ...

10

12

11

9

Yang

donors who also gave to ...

7

5

5

1

Gabbard donors also love Sanders

Donors giving to multiple Democratic candidates in the second half of 2019

Sanders

Warren

Buttigieg

Biden

Share of

Gabbard donors who also gave to ...

17%

4%

4%

2%

Klobuchar donors

who also gave to ...

14

18

4

11

Steyer donors

who also gave to ...

10

12

11

9

Yang donors

who also gave to ...

7

5

5

1

Sanders also drew considerable support from donors to Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii), who shares Sanders’s anti-establishment posture and who pointedly endorsed Sanders over Hillary Clinton during the 2016 primaries.

Trump vs. Democrats

Although Sanders collected a total of $109 million over 2019, President Trump has raised more than $860 million since his election. Trump is a hugely successful small-dollar fundraiser, with a fervent online donor base that has rallied around his presidency.

[Trump is attracting a new crop of big donors, including many who have never given before]

A deeper look at Trump’s donors shows the strength of his online small-dollar fundraising in states that are key to winning the general election. Meanwhile, the concentration of online small-dollar donors for Democrats was driven by the two leading grass-roots fundraisers running in the primaries: Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.).

The online bases of Trump

vs. the Democrats

Top states for online Trump donations via WinRed vs. 2020 online Democratic donations via ActBlue in the second half of 2019, adjusted for population

Top 5

Bottom 5

NH

MT

WY

AZ

FL

AK

NH

WA

VT

OR

MA

CO

Note: Trump figures include WinRed contributions to his top two committees and the Republican National Committee. Democratic figures include contributions to the 10 Democrats in the race as of Feb. 1 who accept donations.

The online bases of Trump vs. the Democrats

Top states for online Trump donations via WinRed vs. 2020 online Democratic donations via ActBlue in the second half of 2019, adjusted for population

NH

NH

WA

MT

VT

OR

WY

MA

CO

AZ

FL

AK

Top 5

Bottom 5

Note: Trump figures include WinRed contributions to his top two committees and the Republican National Committee. Democratic figures include contributions to the 10 Democrats in the race as of Feb. 1 who accept donations.

The online bases of Trump vs. the Democrats

Top states for online Trump donations via WinRed vs. 2020 online Democratic donations via ActBlue in the second half of 2019, adjusted for population

WA

NH

NH

MT

VT

OR

WY

MA

CO

AZ

FL

AK

Top 5

Bottom 5

Note: Trump figures include WinRed contributions to his top two committees and the Republican National Committee. Democratic figures include contributions to the 10 Democrats in the race as of Feb. 1 who accept donations.

Trump has reshaped the Republican donor base with his sustained appeal to online donors. In the last six months of 2019, about 737,000 donors gave online to Trump, the Republican National Committee and two affiliated fundraising committees.

Michelle Ye Hee Lee

Michelle Ye Hee Lee is a reporter on The Washington Post's national political enterprise and accountability team, covering money and influence in politics.

Kevin Schaul

Kevin Schaul is a senior graphics editor for The Washington Post. He covers national politics and public policy using data and visuals.

Reuben Fischer-Baum

Reuben Fischer-Baum is an assignment editor on the graphics team of The Washington Post. He previously worked at FiveThirtyEight and Deadspin. He joined The Post in 2017.

Anu Narayanswamy

Anu Narayanswamy is the data reporter for the national political enterprise and accountability team at The Washington Post, with a focus on money and politics.

Jason Holt, Ted Mellnik, Shelly Tan and Armand Emamdjomeh contributed to this report.

About this story

This analysis is based on a combination of data from the Federal Election Commission and the U.S. Census Bureau. This data does not include donations $200 or less that were made directly to the campaign.

Unique donor estimates were created based on a combination of donor name and Zip code. Donor overlap was computed among the remaining major Democratic candidates. Former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg is excluded from this analysis because he is not accepting donations.

Income and race figures are from the 2018 American Community Survey 5-year estimates.

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