Women control more than half of the wealth in the United States but typically they cling to it rather than give it to political candidates. So, if a candidate could unlock half of the money in the country, they'd be a sure thing, right?
Well, money doesn't always lead to victory, but the correlation is pretty strong. So, why, when women vote in higher percentages than men, donate to charities at a higher rate than men, and control significant wealth, do they typically constitute less than half of the total amount of political contributions?
A new study by the Women's Campaign Forum Foundation that examined women's political giving found that political donations from women increased slightly this year. To date, women have donated $109,489,920 to the two presidential nominees. In addition, women contributed $60 million to Hillary Clinton's presidential bid—accounting for 49.8 percent of her contributions. (The data by the Center for Responsive Politics breaks down the numbers by gender when it is able to determine a donor's gender.) Typically, women account for around 35 percent of contributions. In 2000, women gave $37 million (34 percent); in 2004, $115 million (35 percent); and so far this year, their total amounts to 36 percent of the total. (And these figures included only up until July.)
So, why the gender gap in political donations?
The foundation has an interesting point: Women contribute to enact social change. For women, that desire to enact social change correlates to contributions to charitable organizations, not political candidates. This shows that women don't think that politics is a worthy place for their money, perhaps because not enough social change has been enacted in their lifetimes. While female voters might not think much social change is enacted through politics, there have been great strides over the last 90 years. Women gained the right to vote in 1920, but still, women constitute only 16.6 percent of the House and 16 percent of the Senate. This is a dramatic increase from 15 years ago, when there were only four female senators and 28 House members. We have a ways to go, but in my book, that is definitely social change.
This year, it seems women are getting on the bandwagon. Of Clinton's donations, nearly 50 percent came from women. That's much closer to the percentage of women who vote. Barack Obama's donations from women are slightly lower, at 41.7 percent. John McCain's percentage is drastically lower than both of the other candidates, and also the average, at 28 percent, but this data ends before Sarah Palin was on the ticket.
Clinton's high percentage of female donors shows that with more women in politics, women everywhere are inspired and see social change. It's most likely Palin has increased McCain's showing with women, but we'll just have to wait and see.