October 24, 2012

Conservatives and Liberals Are Equally Generous, Study Finds

Political views do not predict how much money a person will donate to charity, according to a new study. But conservatives and liberals do support different kinds of causes.

Conservatives and people in conservative-leaning states are more likely than others to donate to religious organizations, while people in liberal-leaning states are more likely to donate to secular nonprofits, the study found.

The study was conducted by MIT researchers Michele Margolis and Michael Sances and was based on data from NORC at the University of Chicago. It follows a study by three scholars released in May that suggested fundraisers should phrase pitches differently when appealing to Republicans versus Democrats.

Still, the findings about overall giving rates run counter to previous studies by scholars that have shown that religious conservatives give more than secular liberals.

Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute and formerly professor of public administration at Syracuse University, used public giving data to make that conclusion in the 2006 book Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism.

More recently, a Chronicle analysis of 2008 IRS tax data found states that had voted for the Republican candidate John McCain in the most recent presidential election had given more of their discretionary income to charity than states that had supported the Democratic President Barack Obama.

Let us know what you see among your donors. Do you find differences by political affiliation?

Send an e-mail to Maria Di Mento.