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Update: Measuring up the Republican Field

October 24, 2011 Leave a comment
The upper panel plots the proportion of funds raised from pro-life versus pro-choice sources against candidate positions on the standard liberal-conservative scale. The circle sizes are scaled to the percentage of donors that have given to pro-life/pro-choice political organizations. The circles are colored coded based on candidacy status. Those who have officially announced their candidacy are red; those who have either dropped out or decided against running are gray. The bottom panel overlays two kernel densities drawn from the 2012 Election cycle. In red is the ideal point distribution of Republican candidates. This gives a sense of how the presidential candidates locate with respect to the party. In gray is the distribution of Republican donor ideal points weighted by the amount donated during the 2012 Election cycle.

 

Last June,  Kevin Collins and I co-wrote a post on measuring the ideology of the Republican presidential field. At the time, many of the candidates had yet to enter the race or had recently entered. In lieu of current FEC records for these candidates, we relied on past donations raised by those candidates’  congressional or gubernatorial campaigns to estimate their positions. Thanks to the recent FEC filing deadline, there is now enough data available to re-estimate positions based solely on contributions made to the candidates’ 2012 presidential committees.

In the previous version of the figure, the y-axis measured the proportion of dollars raised from small donors, which revealed a relationship between small donors and ideological extremism. In this version, the y-axis plots the proportion of funds raised from pro-life versus pro-choice sources. I calculate this by first identifying the subset of contributors in the database that have given to one of the many PACs or ballot measures that specifically advocates a pro-life or pro-choice cause. I then classify each contributor as pro-life or pro-choice depending on whether they have donated to a pro-life or pro-choice organization. For example, anyone who has made a political contribution to Right to Life, the Susan B. Anthony List, or in favor of the South Dakota abortion ban referendum is coded as pro-life; whereas anyone who has made a political donation to NARAL, the Republican Majority for Choice, or against the South Dakota abortion ban referendum is coded as pro-choice. I then calculate the pro-life/pro-choice proportions such that,

y = ($ raised from pro-life donors) / ($ raised from pro-life donors + $ raised from pro-choice donors).

Lastly, the size of the circles scales to the percentage of a candidate’s donors that have made political contributions pro-life/pro-choice organizations. Roughly speaking, the larger the circle, the more important social conservatives are to a candidate’s fundraising operations.

Rick Santorum, who has jockeyed hard to position himself as a champion of conservative social values, has the most pro-life position on the y-axis as well as the largest percentage of abortion activists in his donor pool (all of whom are pro-life). The percentage of donors who have supported pro-life/pro-choice organizations is much smaller for candidates like Ron Paul, whose economic conservatism appears to outweigh his vocal pro-life position. This is also the case for Herman Cain who has recently come under pressure from pro-life activists.

Mitt Romney has raised a larger proportion of funds  from pro-choice donors than from pro-life donors, which might not bode well for his campaign. On the other hand, despite a crowded field of bona fide pro-life candidates, many pro-life donors still opted to give to Romney’s campaign.  In fact, Romney boasts a larger total number of pro-life donors than Santorum, even if they represent a much smaller percentage of Romney’s overall donor base. Equally telling is that in the absence of a single viable pro-choice candidate, the Rick Perry has attracted a sizable contingent pro-choice donors. This seems to speak to the extent to which economic issues have overshadowed social issues with respect to fundraising. We will have to wait and see whether this generalizes to voters in the primaries.

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