Study Identifies Link Between Political Competition and Giving

Study Identifies Link Between Political Competition and Giving

Voters who live in counties where political competition is higher give less to charity, a report by researchers from , the , , and  finds. 

Published in the , the report, , analyzed county-level itemized deduction data from 2012 and 2013 in relation to the percentage in each county that voted Republican in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. According to the report, while counties with a higher proportion of Republican-voting residents gave more to charity than counties with a higher proportion of Democrat-voting residents, a higher proportion of  Republican voters tended to reduce charitable giving in counties that are not Republican-dominated.

"As the proportion voting Republican in non-Republican-dominated counties increases, the predicted levels of charitable giving actually decreases," the report's authors write. "In contrast, as the proportion voting Republican increases in Republican-dominated counties, charitable contributions increase. Higher levels of political competition decrease charitable giving, again with partial mediation by tax burden. We also find that the 'crowding in' effect of lower tax burdens on charitable giving only partially compensates for the loss of public revenue. Ultimately, total levels of redistribution — both private and government — are higher in Democratic-leaning counties."

According to Robert K. Christensen, a public management professor in the BYU Marriott School of Business, and his co-authors, the findings may reflect a sense among voters that they're unsure if their charitable contributions are going to like-minded people. For charities, this may mean that giving is likely to increase in red counties that get redder and in blue counties that get bluer. 

"The more politically divided we get in our communities, the more we''re going to see consequences of that spill over into other facets of life, including our charitable giving," said Christensen. "The more political competition in a county, the more suspicion there seems to be in how we spend our charitable dollars."

"Political Competition Is Hurting Our Charitable Giving." Brigham Young University Press Release 10/11/2018.