Women continue to contribute in record numbers heading into 2020

However, it appears that many networks of prominent donors, including powerful women, are staying out of the presidential fundraising race for now.

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SOURCECenter for Responsive Politics

Almost 100,000 women have given more than $200 to a presidential candidate so far during the 2020 presidential elections — nearly four times the number of women donors at this point in the 2016 elections. Who benefits has yet to be determined, but where women are putting their money provides insight. 

Democratic presidential candidates have raised $41 million from women so far this presidential cycle while the Republicans have raised $12 million, based on an OpenSecrets analysis examining publicly available data from contributions for candidates who have raised more than $100,000 reported to the Federal Election Commission. 

The second-quarter fundraising figures indicate that women, who are neither a monolithic voting base nor donor base, are spreading their money widely among the 2020 presidential candidates. 

On the Democratic side of the field, the top fundraisers so far — Sen. Bernie Sanders, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Sen. Kamala Harris — have varying support from women this cycle.  

Presidential candidates’ itemized contributions from women donors (full cycle)

Harris has raised the most from women since she announced her presidential campaign, with $6.6 million total, just under 50 percent of her contributions. Although she is raising the most from women among the Democratic candidates, she is still being outraised by many of her contenders who are men. Research shows the difficulties women in politics, especially women of color, face while fundraising, pointing to how often they raise less money than their white and male counterparts. 

Of the other top fundraisers, Buttigieg has raised $5.6 million in total from women donors, Biden $4.7 million, Warren $3.8 million, and Sanders $3 million. These top fundraisers also tend to top the polls

Presidential candidates’ itemized contributions from women donors (only second quarter)

Harris and Warren, who garnered attention for their performances in the June debates, both raised close to half of their second-quarter contributions from women. 

Only one-third of Biden’s, Buttigieg’s and Sanders’ contributions thus far come from women. Both Buttigieg and Biden saw a spike in contributions from women during the second quarter, raising the most from women between April 1 and June 30 at $4.7 million each from women donors — still only a third of their contributions. Buttigieg and Biden have also raised the most from men this quarter — Buttigieg at $9.5 million and Biden at $8.6 million. 

Candidates vary in their percentage of itemized versus unitemized contributions. Typically contributions are itemized only once the total given tops $200. OpenSecrets can only analyze gender of donors based on disclosed contributions. 

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Harris, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Warren and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro reached gender parity in the percentage of women in their overall donor base — at 55 percent, 52 percent, 51 percent, 50 percent, and 50 percent respectively. Williamson has overwhelming support from women with more than 71 percent of her donors, a first for a presidential candidate. 

Of all the presidential candidates during the second quarter, President Donald Trump has the highest number of women donors at 13,537. Trailing Trump in second-quarter total donors are Sanders at 9,701 women and Warren at 8,123 women.

However, it appears that many networks of prominent donors, including powerful women, are staying out of the presidential fundraising race for now, giving money to groups and causes outside the primary. With a field of two dozen contenders at this early stage, many voters are still reluctant to give support and reluctant to give support to a woman. 

Trump, who has been fundraising for his reelection campaign with the Republican National Committee since he took office, is increasing his campaign’s efforts to woo suburban women in congressional districts that swung to Democrats in 2018. Part of his fundraising operation is tapping his online resources, including emails, texts and social media advertisements, to expand a “deliberate digital outreach to Republican or Republican-leaning women on platforms like Facebook” two campaign officials told Politico. 

Recent examples are online Facebook ads targeting women in battleground states focusing on Melania Trump’s “Be Best” initiative, Ivanka Trump’s work on paid family leave and a Second Amendment ad campaign focused on women who support gun rights, according to Politico. His increased support among women shows a major shift from the 2016 presidential election where he only received 28 percent of his contributions from women. Currently, 36 percent of all his contributions come from women.

Looking at the total fundraising so far this cycle, Democratic women are receiving 52 percent ($17.5 million) of their contributions from men and 48 percent ( $15.9 million) of the contributions from women. Democratic men are receiving 64 percent ($43.7 million) of the contributions from men and 36 percent ($25 million) of the contributions from women. 

Methodology: OpenSecrets pulls out gender demographic data by applying an algorithm based on donor name and title to itemized contributions reported to the Federal Election Commission. For the most part, donations are itemized once a donor has contributed more than $200 to a presidential candidate’s political action committee. However, ActBlue, the online fundraising software that is used by Democrats, progressive groups, and nonprofits to raise money on the Internet, itemizes small donations for Democrats and ActBlue will be filing their itemized information on July 31. Itemized donations list a person’s name, title, address, and employer, thus giving us information to work with. Because we cannot pull out information from donors whose donations are unitemized, we can only understand the gender demographics of itemized donations. Discrepancies between what campaigns report and what we report may arise because the public does not have access to information from unitemized contributions. 

Research contributions from Douglas Weber.

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Grace Haley
Grace is the Center's Gender and Race Researcher and studies the intersection of gender and race of federal candidates and how it affects campaign fundraising, among other things. Prior to joining the Center, Grace worked in research for torture prevention academics, research institutions, and international human rights nonprofits, including the Danish Institute Against Torture in Copenhagen, Denmark. She has a degree in political science with a focus on the intersectionality of gender and race from Reed College.

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