Historically, only three percent of Americans gave to political campaigns, and the three percent was mostly made up of wealthy donors. That number has changed quite dramatically in a few short years.
A study showed that six percent of Americans donated in 1992, and about 12 percent donated in the 2016 election cycle, so it is clear that people may have a desire to donate. Most of the new donors are from different socioeconomic groups, such as middle-class and poor Americans.
Still, compared to the entire population, there is a relatively small amount of people willing to donate to political candidates. For 2020 presidential campaigns, the numbers seem to be decreasing. How you interpret this drop will depend on a few things.
Do People Really Participate in Politics?
The first thing that should be pointed out is that only a portion of people register to vote. From those who register, there is an even smaller amount of people who actually go out and vote. At the moment, only about 56 percent of Americans cast their ballots.
Those numbers become a little more disheartening compared to other developed and democratic countries with better turnouts, like Belgium that normally sees a turnout of about 87 percent or Sweden that sees up to 82 percent of their people voting.
Of those people who participate in the US, mostly rich people donated to political campaigns. The number has risen slightly to include other types of Americans that actually represent most of the country.
Are Americans Willing to Donate or not?
The voter turnout has gotten a little better in the United States, but it is still nowhere near other countries. The number of people willing to donate has increased, but it is definitely not a huge number, though the number has improved.
If there is one thing Bernie Sanders can be thanked for, it is his ability to mobilize the small dollar donation. This US Senator figured out that people are willing to donate to a candidate who is willing to say he or she is not beholden to the millionaire class. Both democrats and republicans seem to agree with this; they do not like the idea that rich people are making decisions for them.
In 2016, 55 percent of Americans who found it in their hearts to donate did so but could only donate less than $100. That is not much compared to the kind of money political campaigns used to receive from individual donors when it was primarily wealthy people involved.
In 2019, ActBlue said their donation average was about $32.29. It is clear that dissatisfaction with the idea that people with money were the only ones donating has definitely helped drive more people to participate, but that is not the only reason. Another factor is the Internet, which has made donating to a campaign as easy as clicking a few buttons on a computer or smart device.
For a long time, political events like luncheons or sending donations through snail mail were some of the only ways to donate to a political campaign. A person had to be pretty motivated to go through all that to donate. The Internet has made donating so easy that even those who are slightly interested in politics can make a donation.
As strange as it might sound, it seems that some generations of voters are also motivated to donate because of social media. Being able to share a donation or a voting sticker is motivating many people to get involved in a political cause and donate.
There is no telling the number of donations politicians are going to receive this time around since the election cycle for 2020 is not over, but a study shows that only eight percent of people have given to a candidate, which is a smaller amount than the 12 percent that gave in the last election cycle.
This could be seen as a drop, or it could be interpreted as a slow start for small dollar donors since that same study reported that 19 percent of Americans are planning to donate and have not done so yet. Americans need to pay attention to these changes because they are having an effect on politics for both parties.