A new study suggests that newfangled text donations have already become a notable part of political fundraising, with about one in 10 presidential campaign donors giving money to the presidential candidates through their cellphones.
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 Republican nominee Mitt Romney leaned in favor of donating through traditional mail, by phone or in person.
Overall, of those who said they had contributed to one of the two candidates this year, 67 percent had given some money 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 donations through text messages until late August, about a month before the Pew surveys used in the study 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 into their fundraising efforts after a series of decisions by the Federal Election Commission approving their use under protocols adhering to campaign finance laws. 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 they have 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 in September compared to less than $1,200 for Romney.
The Pew study suggests that the imbalance stems in part from the natural giving habits of the two parties, with Democrats twice as likely to give online or by cellphone than Republicans.
The study was based on a combined data set from two consecutive surveys in late September containing 2,010 respondents, of which 346 had contributed to one of the presidential candidates. The margin of error for the total sample was +/-2.6 percent, and +/-6.3 percent for the presidential contributors.