A new working paper by Ray La Raja, a leading campaign finance specialist, explores small-donor financing trends for moderate and extreme candidates from each political party. Zach Albert is a co-author on the paper. Here is the abstract:
Increasing grassroots, small dollar donations has long been appealing to campaign finance reformers. Still, important questions remain. Are small donors becoming more common, especially in the Democratic Party? Are small donors really different from larger donors? And what do they tell us about the makeup and direction of the two parties? We use financial records and survey data to track small donors over time and examine their demographic and ideological characteristics. We find that, in recent cycles, the Democratic Party has attracted a growing share of money from small dollar donors, driven at least in part by technological advantages and the changing composition of their supporters. These donors are more demographically representative of the American public but share similar levels of ideological extremism as large donors. Importantly, female and ideologically extreme candidates are most likely to benefit from small donor funding, providing mixed evidence regarding the efficacy of potential reforms.
The abstract can be found on this page and the working paper can be downloaded in its entirety from the American Political Science Association website. Also, visit the main Democracy Chronicles section on American Democracy or our articles on Money Politics.