Which U.S. states are the Republicans' BFF (that's best friends forever, if you’re unfamiliar with the lingo) when it comes to presidential fundraising? We at CMDI decided to dig into the donor data to find out.
In order to normalize the giving data, this examination only includes FEC filings for Republican presidential candidates during the primaries of 2004, 2008 and 2012. As the general elections are still in play for 2012, we didn't want to skew the data. The goal was to determine which states are most rabid in their financial support for their favorite Republican candidate.
Top 10 Most Active Fundraising States
This category didn't hold any surprises. The more populous states should, in theory, generate the largest number of political donations. This premise held mostly true, and the top 10 winners in terms of total number of political donations are:
1. California (#1 in total population)
2. Texas (#2 in total population)
3. Florida (#4 in total population)
4. New York (#3 in total population)
5. Pennsylvania (#6 in total population)
6. Ohio (#7 in total population)
7. Georgia (#9 in total population)
8. Illinois (#5 in total population)
9. Virginia (#12 in total population)
10. Michigan (#8 in total population)
We see that Virginia is punching above its weight. Virginia ranks ninth in terms of number of gifts, and 12th in terms of population. I attribute their enthusiasm for presidential politics to their proximity to Washington D.C.
Top 10 States for Max-Out Presidential Donations
A max-out donation occurs when an individual donor gives the maximum contribution amount allowable by the FEC. Each cycle the amount is a little different. In 2004, the max-out donation limit was $2,000. During the 2008 primaries, the limit was $2,300, and this year the limit is $2,500. This mathematical nuance added an extra twist to our number crunching, but we didn't expect any surprises. We assumed the total max-out political donations count for each state would reflect general population sizes. We were wrong.
1. Texas (#2 in total population)
2. California (#1 in total population)
3. New York (#3 in total population)
4. Florida (#4 in total population)
5. Massachusetts (#14 in total population)
6. New Jersey (#11 in total population)
7. Illinois (#5 in total population)
8. Connecticut (#29 in total population)
9. Utah (#35 in total population)
10. Ohio (#7 in total population)
11. Virginia (#12 in total population)
The big shockers were Utah and Connecticut. Yes, Connecticut is more affluent than most states, but placing eighth in terms of total max-out donations, even though they are 29th in terms of population, is a pretty big jump. Just out of curiosity, I checked where Connecticut was, in terms of their total number of Republican presidential donations, and they were right where they were supposed to be—27th place. It is amazing that they have so many max-out donations.
Utah makes a little more sense. Besides Utah traditionally being a red state, Mitt Romney has longstanding ties to the Utah community, and that obviously played a major role in both 2008 and 2012. Regardless, Utah has a tremendous number of max-out gifts for only being the 35th largest state in terms of population and 17th largest state in terms of total Republican presidential donations.
Top 10 States for Most Max-outs as a Percentage of Donations
This is where the rubber really hits the road. I wanted to see which states are really opening their wallets for their favorite Republican candidate. The following ratings are based on the number of max-out gifts as a percentage of total donations to Republican presidential primary campaigns. Our guts tell us that we will see a confluence of traditional "red states" and affluent states jumping to the top of the list.
1. Connecticut (7.52 percent of donations are max-outs)
2. New York (6.35 percent of donations are max-outs)
3. Massachusetts (5.36 percent of donations are max-outs)
4. Utah (4.54 percent of donations are max-outs)
5. Texas (4.18 percent of donations are max-outs)
6. New Jersey (3.71 percent of donations are max-outs)
7. Nevada (3.66 percent of donations are max-outs)
8. Wyoming (3.61 percent of donations are max-outs)
9. California (3.35 percent of donations are max-outs)
10. Florida (3.26 percent of donations are max-outs)
*The District of Columbia (9.98 percent of gifts are max-outs) was not included in this top 10 list as we consider D.C. citizens professional politicos.
Well, we were partially correct. Connecticut, New York and my fair Commonwealth of Massachusetts are affluent. They are not red states however. In the past five presidential elections (1992-2008), these states, along with New Jersey and California, gave the Democratic candidate a margin of victory of over 10 percent. These are definitely blue states.
It’s interesting that first place Connecticut's percentage is twice as large as number 10 Florida. The average percentage across all states was 2.45 percent. The only true red states in the top 10 list are Utah, Texas and Wyoming.
Let’s look at affluence. If we examine these states in terms of median household income, we find that 40 percent of the top 10 max-out donation states are on the list: Connecticut (#3 in median income), Massachusetts (#6), New Jersey (#2) and California (#9).
Here is where our premise starts to hold water; the true red states of Utah, Texas and Wyoming are well represented in the top 10 Republican donation states, even though they are lower on the affluence scale. Utah is ranked 14th in terms of median income, Nevada is 18th and Texas is 25th.
The two states that completely go against our theory are Florida and New York. New York is a blue state, and they sit in 15th place in terms of affluence. Florida is a swing state but is only in 38th place in terms of affluence. Florida is actually easily explained by their massive political importance during the last few cycles and their large population of retirees.
New York can be explained by the fact that it is the ancestral home of the U.S. financial industry. Bankers’ and brokers' interests are tightly aligned with Washington and their pockets are deep. It is reasonable to assume that they would provide max-out donations to both Republicans and Democrats.
I know what you really want to know is which state has the fewest max-out Republican donations in terms of a percentage of all gifts. This honor goes to Alaska with only 0.24 percent of their gifts being the maximum amount a donor can give.
Erik currently runs sales and marketing for CMDI, the largest Republican fundraising technology platform.