New GW survey finds:
The 2004 election was a watershed in presidential campaign fundraising. Three or four times as many people contributed to the candidates in 2004 as in 2000, including an unprecedented number of small donors and Internet donors.
from GW release
GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITYS
INSTITUTE FOR POLITICS, DEMOCRACY & THE INTERNET
AND THE CAMPAIGN FINANCE INSTITUTE
RELEASE A MAJOR NEW SURVEY REPORT:
SMALL DONORS, ONLINE DONORS AND FIRST-TIMERS
IN THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION OF 2004
WASHINGTON The 2004 election was a watershed in presidential campaign fundraising. Three or four times as many people contributed to the candidates in 2004 as in 2000, including an unprecedented number of small donors and Internet donors.
A report released today by the Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet (IPDI) and the Campaign Finance Institute (CFI) looks at this surge of contributors. More than 1,500 donors were surveyed and three dozen interviewed at length for Small Donors and Online Giving: A Study of Donors to the 2004 Presidential Campaigns.
Joe Graf, principal author of the report and research director at IPDI, said, “This report dispels the notion that small donors are angrier and more partisan than big donors. Theyre not. Small donors in the 2004 presidential election were good for American democracy.”
Carol Darr, director of IPDI, noted that the surge in small donors, especially on the Democratic side, was driven by the Internet. “The Internet made contributing so easy that 40 percent of online donors gave money without first being approached by the campaign. This opens up the process to a brand new group of contributors.”
“The findings leave me cautiously upbeat,” said Michael J. Malbin, CFI’s executive director. “Donors are still a small part of the population, but the growth was impressive. So was the surprising fluidity among them, which means there are even more potential donors out there. These could be important building blocks for the future.”
Among the key findings:
Economics: Small donors, not surprisingly, were not as rich as the major donors, who come from an elite socioeconomic slice of the population. While both sets of contributors grew in 2004, the small donor increase meant greater participation by people who were more middle class.
First-timers and churning: The donor pool is far more fluid and changeable year to year than we used to believe.1 This means much more unpredictability, and potential opportunity, for future campaigns.
Unsolicited donors and the Internet: Nearly half of the online donors who gave $100 or less, and more than one-third of those who gave $500 or more, said they contributed without being asked. This compares to only about one-quarter of the offline donors.
Internet empowerment and civic engagement: The Internet is leveling the playing field between large donors and small donors. Being online makes it easier for small donors to connect with others, find information and be politically active.
Online donors are more likely than offline donors to ask others for money. They were more politically active in other respects and more likely to ask others to support their candidate.
The influence of social events in campaign 2004 has been underestimated. One quarter of all donors reported they attended a house party. One quarter of donors who attended an event through Meetup.com said it helped motivate their first donation to a candidate.
The Internet and Young Donors: Nearly all young donors gave online (more than 80 percent). Giving online will be central to the future of campaign fundraising.
Small Donors’ Political Views: Finally, there has been concern expressed that small donors may be more polarized or more extreme in their views than major donors. We found, contrary to conventional wisdom, that small donors were no more polarized or extreme in their views than people who gave large amounts of money.
The report’s executive summary and conclusions are attached to this press release.
The reports authors are Joseph Graf, project director at IPDI; Grant Reeher, associate professor of political science at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University; Michael J. Malbin, executive director of CFI and professor of political science, State University of New York at Albany; and Costas Panagopoulos, post-doctoral fellow at the Institution for Social and Policy Studies, Yale University.
Small Donors and Online Giving: A Study of Donors to the 2004 Presidential Campaigns was supported by the Joyce Foundation of Chicago. Additional funding was provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Reform Institute.
IPDI (www.ipdi.org) is a research and advocacy center for the study and promotion of online politics in a manner that encourages citizen participation and is consistent with democratic principles. IPDI is non-partisan and non-profit and is housed in the Graduate School of Political Management at The George Washington University.
CFI (www.CampaignFinanceInstitute.org) is a non-partisan, non-profit institute affiliated with The George Washington University that conducts objective research and education, empanels task forces and makes recommendations for policy change in the field of campaign finance.
Statements in this report do not necessarily reflect the views of the George Washington University, the board members or trustees of IPDI or CFI or their financial supporters.
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1 Fifteen percent of donors who gave more than $500 in 2004 were donating to a political candidate for the first time, as did 23 percent of those who gave less than $100. Another 39 percent of the $500+ donors and 44 percent of the less-than-$100 donors said they give only in “some elections.”