The vast majority of small campaign donors

In a February debate, Hillary Clinton said,  “I’m very proud of the fact that we have more than 750,000 donors, and the vast majority of them are giving small contributions.” This bugged me, because it’s misleading, like saying we don’t have a lot of inequality because only a tiny percentage of our people are filthy rich. But the opposite of that. You know what I mean.

I illustrate this with some data.

Please take this just as an illustration, not a definitive contribution analysis. I got the campaign contributor data for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders from the Federal Election Commission. I’m sure it’s all much more complicated than I understand, but this is a simple description. The files include individual donations, along with some details about each donor. From what I understand, the maximum personal contribution is $2700, and the minimum reporting requirement is $200. These files have people who gave less than $200 and more than $2700, but I deleted them since they’re not comprehensive. (First I combined the multiple contributions from single individuals.) This means I’m missing a huge amount of contributions, especially to Bernie, who is reported to have raised 72% of his money from people giving $200 or less (compared with 16% for Hillary), as of January. And of course this ignores the whole PAC issue, which is also huge. Even with those two factors hugely biased against what I’m showing, the distribution point here is obvious.

Here is the distribution of donors according to how much they gave. From this, Hillary can say most of her donors are small (though not nearly as much as Bernie’s). Click to enlarge:

Here is the distribution of contributions, according to how much the people who make them gave. From this Hillary must admit that the vast majority of her contributions come from people who gave the maximum allowed. Here Bernie’s small donors still manage to give 31%, even though they’re up against people giving 10-times as much.

Here’s the rundown of mean, median mode, for donations within this range:

Hillary: mean: $1355; median: $1000, mode: $2700

Bernie: mean: $535, median: $350, mode: $250

I prefer actual honesty, not literal honesty.

Anyway, while I’m in there, I may as well tabulate the most common occupations listed for donors to each candidate (again, in the $200-$2700 range only). These are the 25 most common for each, with the frequency. I combined a few obvious ones (like programmer and computer programmer), but otherwise didn’t do much to clean this up. I set the titles in italics when an occupation appears on one list but not the other. Click to enlarge:

Others do lots more with this stuff, obviously.


Filed under Politics

3 responses to “The vast majority of small campaign donors

  1. I think you are not willing to credit the simple fact she’s making and that not every act of hers is nefarious. Admitting that Bernie has millions of donors and that he’s making a big fuss of this, still 750,000 individual donors is worth noting and she wants this to be known. Not fooling anybody — just pointing out an important fact.


  2. Pretendous

    Lots of computer scientists uniquely for Bernie. Are these those dove libertarians who might have voted for Rand Paul if they had the chance?


  3. Drekfletch

    You have Engineer italicized on Hillary’s column, and non-italicized on Bernie’s.


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