Women always make up more than half of the electorate in national elections.
But when it comes to donating to presidential candidates, they usually account for a minority of donations, according to the available donor data. And this year is no different — at least, thus far — according to a recent analysis from the Center for Responsive Politics, a think tank that tracks money in elections. That group attempted to use donors' names to analyze donations by gender. They found that men thus far account for around 57% of donations to presidential candidates.
"One way we think about this is thinking about the activation of women — in what way do they channel their political enthusiasm or engagement?" says Kelly Dittmar, assistant research professor at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. "And it hasn't been money. That hasn't been a primary route for them to do so."
Based on the data we have thus far for 2019, relatively few candidates have received most of their money from women. Here are a few of the lessons we can glean from the center's data.
1. Only four candidates get more than half of their money from women
Of the Democratic candidates still in the race (and of their donations that the Center for Responsive Politics tallied by gender), five candidates — Julian Castro, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren and Marianne Williamson — are getting around half or more than half of their countable donations from women. Those estimates derived from data available as of Sept. 30.
This data includes donations of $200 or over, which campaigns must itemize for the Federal Election Commission, through Sept. 30. It also includes small-dollar donation data from ActBlue, an online Democratic fundraising service that according to the Center for Responsive Politics accounts for the vast majority of small-dollar donations, through June 30.
The center uses an algorithm to attempt to code donors as a woman or a man — someone named "Jessica" or with a "Ms." in front of their name would, for instance, be counted as a woman, whereas a "Hank" or a "Mr." would, similarly, be a man — and then attempts to code by hand the gender of people with gender-neutral names. (According to the center, that means that around 3.9% of donations — those listed as coming from couples or those where the center did not ultimately code a donor's gender — are not represented here.)
And, importantly, this means these are imperfect measures. There is the potential in this analysis for people to self-identify differently than the gender that the center counted them as.
This means the data can give a sense of the shape of donation patterns by gender, but the figures here are not totally precise amounts.
Past data suggest that women have long been underrepresented in presidential campaign donations. Since 1989, the Center for Responsive Politics has found, there have been only three instances (besides this year) of major-party presidential candidates receiving more than half of their countable donations from women: Dennis Kucinich in 2004, and Hillary Clinton, in 2008 and 2016 alike.
However, those figures do not include ActBlue data, so they're not perfect comparisons with the 2020 candidates' data presented here.
2. Female candidates seem to be attracting a lot of women's money (or, conversely, attracting less of men's money)
Not many women have run for major-party presidential nominations thus far in the U.S., so there's not a huge population of women's campaigns to study. But at least from the data we have thus far, it looks like recent female candidates have been good at attracting donations from women — or, conversely, that they haven't as strongly attracted men's money.
Of the five major female candidates still in the race, four are at or near the top of the list of candidates receiving the largest share of their donations from women.
Then again, being a woman isn't a guarantee that female donors will be energized. As of Sep. 30, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard had received only about one-quarter of her total money from women.
And also, it's important to keep these percentages in context. Marianne Williamson has gotten a large majority of her money from female donors, but she still has raised far less money than many of her opponents. Below is a breakdown of the raw dollar totals that candidates have received from women and men.
3. On the other hand, women tend to show up more in small-dollar donations
Notably, for nearly every candidate, the share of dollars received from women is smaller — often, much smaller — than the share of individual donors who are women. In fact, only a handful of the candidates analyzed here — including Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Andrew Yang, Tulsi Gabbard and John Delaney — have a donor base that's majority-men.
Women simply tend to donate less to campaigns. Altogether, of the donations from either party that the Center for Responsive Politics analyzed by gender, women accounted for about 43% of all dollars given.
Women donating less than men is not a new phenomenon; according to experts at the Center for Responsive Politics, women have historically been more common among small donors than large donors.
It's hard to lay out comprehensive reasons for why this is the case. One contributing factor could be, for example, that women tend to earn less than men and therefore have less disposable income to donate. Whatever the reason is, it means women have significantly less power in the money arena than they do in voting, where they are the majority of the electorate.
4. Trump is getting more money from women than last time around.
Trump's data is not totally comparable to the data for Democrats, as he does not have small-dollar data available through ActBlue (that said, Republicans have started raising money through their own, comparable platform called WinRed, for which data is not yet available).
This cycle, women account for about 35% of the itemized donations to Donald Trump. That is low compared to the Democratic numbers listed above (which, again, include small-dollar donations), but it is up substantially from the 2016 cycle, when the Center for Responsive Politics, around 28% of Trump's donations came from women.
This doesn't necessarily mean electoral success with women — these donors are, after all, just a sliver of the entire electorate.
And Trump is still deeply unpopular with American women. After losing women by 15 points in 2016, according to the Pew Research Center, his approval rate with women continues to be very low. Just 35% of women approve of him in the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, compared to 48% of men.
What the donation data might indicate, however, is less hesitation among female donors than in 2016 — at least, according to one Republican strategist.
"Yes, there was some heartburn about the issue of his tone and tenor with women. That's not something that can be ignored," said Republican strategist Alice Stewart. "But at the time, women viewed him as an insurgent candidate. Now they see him as an incumbent president who has delivered on key issues."