Thursday, February 14, 2013

The very rich are correlated with you and me

The Federal Election Commission keeps records of donations of $250 or more.  An organization called Splunk4Good has organized the data into a "Campaign Contribution Explorer" (thanks to Gordon Weakliem for the reference).  I wondered how closely the Democratic and Republican shares of contributions from each state would correspond to the Democratic and Republican shares of the vote.   Of course, not everyone who contributes $250 or more is rich, but the total volume of contributions basically represents the preferences of rich people in the state, not the whole population.

One possibility is that there's some general state-wide tendency that affects everyone--rich people in New York will be more Democratic than rich people in Wyoming, and poor people in New York will be more Democratic than poor people in Wyoming.  Another is that there's something distinctive about the preferences rich people in each state--for example, maybe they consider which party will be best for the particular business from which they get their money.

It turns out that there is a pretty close relationship (the correlation is .81).  There are two clear exceptions:  Nevada, where the Democrats won a little more than half the vote but received only about 6% of the money, and Washington, DC, where the Democrats got 90% of the vote but only about 65% of the contributions. The contribution shares covered a wide range:  there were 26 states in which one of the parties got more than 70% of the dollar contributed and only three in which one of the parties got over 70% of the votes.  However, Republicans had a clear advantage:  most of the "swing states" in contributions were those in which the Democrats got about 60% of the vote. 

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