Menus Subscribe Search

Follow us


politicalgiving

Please Give? Sure, So Long as My Guy Wins

• November 04, 2012 • 9:12 PM

New research suggests Americans give more to charity when a member of their political party is in the White House.

Many important outcomes hinge on the results of Tuesday’s election. The fate of health-care reform. The makeup of the Supreme Court.

And, of course, the amount of money you’ll be giving to charity next year.

The latter conclusion is found in a paper prepared by MIT political scientists Michele Margolis and Michael Sances for a recent conference of the American Political Science Association. Their research caught the attention of the Washington Post a couple of weeks back for its refutation of Arthur Brooks’ oft-repeated claim that conservatives are more generous donors than liberals.

In fact, according to Margolis and Sances, “Republicans and Democrats appear to donate roughly equal percentages of their income to charity.” The actual difference, they argue, is where that money goes: “Liberals and Democrats are more inclined to donate to nonreligious organizations, while conservatives and Republicans donate to religious causes, especially their own congregations.”

While those results aren’t surprising, the researchers’ additional observation may raise some eyebrows: “We find that charitable contributions fluctuate based on the political landscape.”

Specifically, they write, Democrats apparently give less money to charity when a Republican is in the White House, and vice versa.

Margolis and Sance determined this by analyzing Internal Revenue Service data on giving to nonprofit organizations. Specifically, they looked at annual donations to a nationally representative sample of tax-exempt organizations between 1982 and 2008. They compared total giving in 13 heavily Republican states, including Alabama, Arizona and Texas, with 12 heavily Democratic states, including California, Illinois and Massachusetts.

Their conclusion: “When a Republican is in the White House, nonprofits from Republican states have higher mean levels of charitable contributions. Similarly, for the most Democratic areas, having a Democrat in the White House yields significantly higher contributions.”

Why would this be? “Democrats and Republicans feel more optimistic about the economy when their party controls the White House,” the researchers write, pointing to evidence that “these biased perceptions translate into real economic behaviors.”

If, as recent research suggests, partisans on one side or the other spend more following a presidential victory by their party, it follows that they’ll also be more generous in giving to charity.

So directors of nonprofit organizations will be eagerly watching the election returns Tuesday night, but their rooting interests will vary. If you’re a soup kitchen or theater company in a blue state, an Obama win might open wallets a bit wider. On the other hand, if you’re a red-state church in need of a new roof, a Romney victory may be just the ticket.

Tom Jacobs
Staff writer Tom Jacobs is a veteran journalist with more than 20 years experience at daily newspapers. He has served as a staff writer for The Los Angeles Daily News and the Santa Barbara News-Press. His work has also appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and Ventura County Star.

More From Tom Jacobs

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

September 22 • 4:00 PM

The Overly Harsh and Out-of-Date Law That’s So Difficult on Debtors

A 1968 federal law allows collectors to take 25 percent of debtors’ wages, or every penny in their bank accounts.


September 22 • 2:00 PM

NFL Players Are More Law Abiding Than Average Men

According to records kept by USA Today, 2.53 percent of players are arrested in any given year.


September 22 • 12:00 PM

Freaking Out About Outliers: When the Polls Are Way Off

The idea of such a small number of people being used to predict how millions will vote sometimes irks observers, but it’s actually a very reliable process—most of the time.


September 22 • 10:00 AM

The Imagined Sex Worker

The stigma against black sex workers can reinforce stigmas against all black women and all sex workers.


September 22 • 9:54 AM

All-Girls Schools Don’t Make Girls More Competitive

Parents, not educational setting, may be the key.


September 22 • 8:00 AM

The NFL, the Military, and the Problem With Masculine Institutions

Both the NFL and the U.S. military cultivate and reward a form of hyper-violent masculinity. The consequences of doing so have never been more obvious.


September 22 • 6:00 AM

Zombies in the Quad: The Trouble With Elite Education

William Deresiewicz’s new book, Excellent Sheep, is in part, he says, a letter to his younger, more privileged self.


September 22 • 4:02 AM

You’re Going to Die! So Buy Now!

New research finds inserting reminders of our mortality into advertisements is a surprisingly effective strategy to sell products.



September 19 • 4:00 PM

In Your Own Words: What It’s Like to Get Sued Over Past Debts

Some describe their surprise when they were sued after falling behind on medical and credit card bills.



September 19 • 1:26 PM

For Charitable Products, Sex Doesn’t Sell

Sexy women may turn heads, but for pro-social and charitable products, they won’t change minds.


September 19 • 12:00 PM

Carbon Taxes Really Do Work

A new study shows that taxing carbon dioxide emissions could actually work to reduce greenhouse gases without any negative effects on employment and revenues.


September 19 • 10:00 AM

Why the Poor Remain Poor

A follow-up to “How Being Poor Makes You Poor.”


September 19 • 9:03 AM

Why Science Won’t Defeat Ebola

While science will certainly help, winning the battle against Ebola is a social challenge.


September 19 • 8:00 AM

Burrito Treason in the Lone Star State

Did Meatless Mondays bring down Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples?


September 19 • 7:31 AM

Savor Good Times, Get Through the Bad Ones—With Categories

Ticking off a category of things to do can feel like progress or a fun time coming to an end.


September 19 • 6:00 AM

The Most Untouchable Man in Sports

How the head of the governing body for the world’s most popular sport freely wields his wildly incompetent power.


September 19 • 4:00 AM

The Danger of Dining With an Overweight Companion

There’s a good chance you’ll eat more unhealthy food.



September 18 • 4:00 PM

Racial Disparity in Imprisonment Inspires White People to Be Even More Tough on Crime

White Americans are more comfortable with punitive and harsh policing and sentencing when they imagine that the people being policed and put in prison are black.



September 18 • 2:00 PM

The Wages of Millions Are Being Seized to Pay Past Debts

A new study provides the first-ever tally of how many employees lose up to a quarter of their paychecks over debts like unpaid credit card or medical bills and student loans.


September 18 • 12:00 PM

When Counterfeit and Contaminated Drugs Are Deadly

The cost and the crackdown, worldwide.


September 18 • 10:00 AM

How Do You Make a Living, Molly Crabapple?

Noah Davis talks to Molly Crapabble about Michelangelo, the Medicis, and the tension between making art and making money.


Follow us


All-Girls Schools Don’t Make Girls More Competitive

Parents, not educational setting, may be the key.

For Charitable Products, Sex Doesn’t Sell

Sexy women may turn heads, but for pro-social and charitable products, they won't change minds.

Carbon Taxes Really Do Work

A new study shows that taxing carbon dioxide emissions could actually work to reduce greenhouse gases without any negative effects on employment and revenues.

Savor Good Times, Get Through the Bad Ones—With Categories

Ticking off a category of things to do can feel like progress or a fun time coming to an end.

How to Build a Better Election

Elimination-style voting is harder to fiddle with than majority rule.

The Big One

One in three tourists to Jamaica reports getting harassed; half of them are hassled to buy drugs. September/October 2014 new-big-one-4

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.