The Geography of Money and Politics: Population Density, Social Networks and Political Contributions
30 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2015
Date Written: July 17, 2015
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
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