Sunday, September 25, 2011

Trends that are not actually occurring, Obama donor edition

Over at the New York Times, Nicholas Confessore has a piece up claiming that Obama's small donors, who were such a major part of his support in 2008, are not showing up for him during this election cycle. The thrust of the piece is qualitative, involving interviews with some of Obama's 2008 donors who are now disappointed with him and haven't given him any money yet. But behind these assertions is a quantitative claim: Obama is not commanding the same level of support he was four years ago. As Confessore says:
Through June 30, the close of the most recent campaign reporting period, more than 552,000 people had contributed to Mr. Obama’s re-election effort, according to campaign officials. Half of them were new donors, and nearly all of them gave contributions of less than $250.
But those figures obscured another statistic: a vast majority of Mr. Obama’s past donors, who number close to four million, have not yet given him any money at all [emphasis added].
Okay, there's a big and very obvious problem with this comparison. The half-million people who have donated to Obama's 2012 campaign so far (that is, through June of 2011) are being compared with those who donated through the entirety of the 2008 campaign season. The bulk of donors don't get involved until much closer to the primaries and general election. The appropriate comparison point would be those who donated through June of 2007. According to the FEC, there were just over 77,000 donations to Obama in the first half of 2007, roughly a third of which were under $250.

So, just to review, Obama has received more than seven times as many donations at this point in the 2012 cycle than he did by this point in the 2008 cycle. What's more, the share of his donations coming from small (under $250) contributions is now greater than it was four years ago.

Now, of course, there are plenty of reasons why these two elections cycles don't make for a great comparison. Obama is the president now, and he was only a modestly-famous freshman senator four years ago. Conversely, he was going into a hotly contested primary back then and appears to be unopposed for the nomination today. That said, there is no quantitative basis for Confessore's assertions.

That's not to say that there are no 2008 Obama supporters who are disappointed with his presidency -- I'm sure there are plenty! And I haven't collected the data that would tell us the extent to which those supporters are contributing today. But to say that the half-million who have given to Obama this year compare unfavorably to the 4 million who gave to him previously is really grossly misleading.


Michael Turton said...

Don't worry! No correction will be posted.

bill wilson said...

Excellent piece! Unfortunately both the right and left wing media is filled with this sort of distortion.

Al Alessi said...

Thanks for clarifying. I'll admit the Confessore piece left me frustrated. Count me as one who continues to support Obama. All I wanted was an adult who worked to understand the facts, and he has met that admittedly low bar. That can not be said of Bush 2 or any of the current GOP candidates, or the GOP en masse.

Unknown said...

I am one of the "disappointed" who contributed to his campaign last time. Given my current financial situation, I don't know if I will contribute money this time around, but he will still get my vote...he is still the far better choice.

amk for obama said...

Thanks for nailing yet another msm lie. The mofo was comparing apples and oranges literally.

Milan said...

Another big dent to Obama's fundraising is that the Wall Street executives who supported him in 2008 are now supporting the Republicans.

Corporations (Google, Facebook) and Business Leaders (Jamie Dimon) who were crusaders for Obama are now distancing themselves from him. It will be intriguing to see how this plays out in the future, especially with Superpacs.