The Geography of Money and Politics: Population Density, Social Networks and Political Contributions

30 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2015  

Yu-Ru Lin

University of Pittsburgh - School of Information Sciences

David Lazer

Northeastern University - Department of Political Science; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Ryan Kennedy

University of Houston - Department of Political Science

Date Written: July 17, 2015

Abstract

We examine the social antecedents for contributing to campaigns, with a particular focus on the role of population density. Using 10 years of US campaign contribution data from the Federal Election Commission (FEC), we find that the idea of contributing to a campaign is easier to spread in a densely populated region, where the daily opportunity of individuals being exposed to the same information via their social network is high, compared with people living in a less populous region. Furthermore, the effect of population density is heterogeneous with respect to the dynamics of residents’ mobility: if the given region has a relatively large population routinely commuting to other places, the chance of being mobilized from the place of residence decreases while the chance of being mobilized from the place of work increases. This analysis also reveals differences between political parties. Democrats are more dependent on the networks developed in population dense areas, and especially areas with a high density of affluent individuals. We confirm these party differences with respect to reliance on social networks and workplace mobilization using a national survey of 404 party leaders. Democrats’ advantage in affluence-dense regions of the country may partially explain how they remain competitive in the US money race despite wealth’s associated with being Republican and the persistence of noticeable “contribution deserts” in the Democratic fundraising map.

Keywords: fundraising, Federal Election Commission, geography, social networks

Suggested Citation

Lin, Yu-Ru and Lazer, David and Kennedy, Ryan, The Geography of Money and Politics: Population Density, Social Networks and Political Contributions (July 17, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2632149 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2632149

Yu-Ru Lin

University of Pittsburgh - School of Information Sciences ( email )

United States

HOME PAGE: http://yurulin.com

David Lazer

Northeastern University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Boston, MA 02115
United States
617-373-2796 (Phone)
617-373-5311 (Fax)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Taubman Center
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-0102 (Phone)
617-496-1722 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.davidlazer.com

Ryan Kennedy (Contact Author)

University of Houston - Department of Political Science ( email )

TX 77204-3011
United States
713-743-1663 (Phone)
713-743-3890 (Fax)

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