Which Party Is the Party of the 1 Percent? (The Rich Guys)

Redacted from an article by Michael Barone

Capital Research Center Monthly
February 2017 Issue
Washington, DC

Which of America’s two political parties is the party of the rich? Many people would say it’s the Republicans. The caricature, common in the 1930s, is that the GOP is the party of the plutocrat in the Monopoly game, complete with top hat and tails. A Pew Research poll found 62 percent of Americans believe the Republicans favor the rich. But the data tell a different story.

First, the story is mixed where votes are concerned. Exit polls in recent presidential and congressional elections have shown that both parties receive substantial support from voters who make over $100,000 annually. And the stereotype falls apart when political contributions are examined: Democrats, in fact, seem to come out ahead of Republicans in raising money from the richest precincts of the nation.

To shed more light on this question, the Capital Research Center (CRC) has conducted a new analysis of political contributions from the most affluent parts of the country during the 2013–14 campaign cycle (the most recent cycle with complete data).

What This Study Measures

The data on political giving are so vast and can be dissected in so many ways that no one study can ever be exhaustive. This particular study emphasizes, not who or what are the most powerful political donors in our system (think of the eternal arguments about the relative powers and influence of unions, corporations, and PACs) but rather, which party’s candidates receive the most contributions from America’s wealthy elites who live in the poshest locales.

In this study of rich donors, CRC has focused on donations by individuals (not by groups) that are given to individual candidates of the two major political parties, not to party committees or to other political actors like super PACs or unions.

It’s reasonable to focus on the individuals who donate and receive these funds, given how many politicians and pundits imply that wealthy Americans regularly “buy” elections for the political party that’s supposedly biased toward the rich.

But even if the parameters of this study were far broader, there’s little reason to believe the outcomes would significantly change. For example, federal spending by Super PACs in this same cycle skewed $196.8 million “for Democrats/against Republicans,” versus $139.9 million “for Republicans/against Democrats,” according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Political Giving by “the 1 Percent”

As journalists and scholars have shown in recent years, affluent Americans are concentrated in certain neighborhoods to a considerable extent—indeed, to a greater extent than in the past.

Bill Bishop in his 2008 book The Big Sort illustrated how people with similar levels of education, income and wealth, and cultural attitudes have increasingly clustered in places filled with others of similar characteristics. The social scientist Charles Murray in his 2012 book Coming Apart showed how those at the very top of these scales are clustered in zip codes that he christened, “SuperZips.”

CRC’s study asks to which party do such people—who are much more likely than the ordinary voter to be able to afford sizable discretionary spending—contribute their money?

The overall answer is that more money from the top 300 SuperZips in 2013–14 went to Democrats than Republicans, by a significant but not overwhelming margin, if you set aside those contributions over $1 million made by wealthy individuals to their own campaigns. (Which were usually lost, by the way)

Out-of-State Giving

Some observers may argue that partisan contributions are not a fair measure of the party preferences of persons living in elite neighborhoods, because many affluent contributors may simply be donating for pragmatic reasons to state and local officials of the dominant party, which in many metro areas, and the Big Four in particular, is overwhelmingly likely to be Democratic. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, for example, has said he made many of his local donations just to help his business, not because he agreed with the pols who received the money.

This conclusion also proved false. These numbers reinforce the fact that America’s elite across the nation have powerful sympathies toward the Democratic Party. And the more elite their neighborhood is in America’s most powerful cities, the more strongly they lean Democrat.

Top 300 zip codes nationwide (representing the top 1.4 percent of socio-economic status):
Democrats $71 million
Republicans $47 million

Conclusion

These data are powerful evidence that affluent Americans in the most elite locales contribute significantly more money to Democrats than Republicans.

The data also show that Democrats raise a notable chunk of their campaign money in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, DC Democratic candidates and party officials attending affluent contributors’ fundraisers evidently have to spend a lot of time in airliners or private jets flying coast to coast across the country, while Republican candidates and party officials have to make significantly more fundraising stops, staggered across the giant landmass of America between the two coasts.

Half a century ago, many liberal commentators argued that Democrats, as the party whose policies allegedly represented the interests of lower-income Americans, had an unfair disadvantage in raising money for campaigns, because they couldn’t compete with Republicans for access to the checkbooks of the wealthy. The data presented here make clear that that argument, regardless of whether it was valid then, has no validity today.

A change in rhetoric is therefore indicate  i.e. the retirement of the nationwide claim that” the Republicans are the party of the rich.”  Not so. If either party is the party of the rich, it is the Democrats.

About the author:

Michael Barone is Senior Political Analyst for the Washington Examiner, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and longtime co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. Some of Michael Barone’s frequent topics: Politics | White House | Campaigns | Obamacare | Demographics | Entitlements | Big Government | Polls | 2014 Elections

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