The Effect of Candidate Race on Federal Campaign Contributions

david singer

Observing Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 fundraising machine, David Singer became interested in how political candidates raise campaign funds. One question he had was whether race or ethnicity affects the amount of money political candidates raise. Singer began pursing that question, and the end product made the university’s list of “30 Seriously Impressive Undergrad Research Projects.”

Searching the course catalog, Singer stumbled across a new two-sequence government course organized by Michael Findley and taught, this year, by graduate student Kyle Endres. The two courses, Government Research Internship and Applied Research: Political Science, are affiliated with Findley’s research lab, Innovations for Peace and Development (IPD). Students participate in IPD activities, such as coding World Bank projects, but they also get schooled in research methods and develop their own research projects.

Contrary to his expectations, Singer found that, in both political parties, minority candidates raise more money than white candidates. Moreover, the contrast is starker in the Republican Party than the Democratic Party. Based on 2010-14 data, Republican minority candidates raise, on average, about $14,000 more than their white counterparts; for Democratic candidates the number is about $4,000.