Thumbs Down: Americans Sour On Political Donations

Is donating to a political campaign a good use of Americans’ money? Voters don’t think so.

It’s political season, but Americans aren’t rushing to financially support any political campaigns.

That’s the takeaway from a new study by Lending Tree, which notes that with the U.S. midterm elections approaching, Americans are getting ready to cast their ballots but many aren’t pulling out their wallets.

According to the survey, a significant number of U.S. voters don’t plan to donate to a political campaign in 2022, and most Americans never have.

This from the study:

· 71% of Americans have never donated to a political campaign, and 66% don’t plan to contribute to one in 2022.

· Democrats are most likely to make a political donation in 2022, with 29% saying they plan to do so. Only 14% of Republicans say they plan to do the same.

· 89% of Americans think that money has too much influence in politics. Meanwhile, only 27% of Americans believe their political donations make a difference.

· As a whole, 59% of Americans say the economy is the most important issue in the upcoming election, with more Republicans than Democrats saying so (68% versus 52%).

Not surprisingly, a souring economy has an army of voters concerned not about what polls promise, but about what inflation is doing to their household finances.

“Inflation is clearly an enormous concern for consumers,” LendingTree chief credit analyst Matt Schulz says. “It impacts virtually everything we do and helps shape our views on how well our current leaders are doing their jobs.”

For some, donating will spur them to donate more toward their candidate of choice. 

“For others, it may dampen their enthusiasm about a candidate and keep them from donating anything at all,” Schulz said.

Americans On Political Contributions: Thanks, But No Thanks

Why do so many people opt out of contributing to political campaigns, especially with a high-stakes mid-term election coming up?

For two big reasons, experts say.

“First, most Americans don’t have enough spare cash to give to politicians,” said elections and campaign finance expert Dan McMillan, author of the upcoming book, “Get Money Out of Politics: The Time is Now.” Some 56% of Americans are unable to cover an unexpected $1,000 bill with savings, according to a telephone survey of more than 1,000 adults conducted in early January by Bankrate.

Secondly, the American people are savvier than politicians think.

“Many of us see that candidates need to raise so much money from big-dollar donors that our small donations buy us no influence over what these candidates do if they get into office,” McMillan told TheStreet.

General cynicism over politics is another significant reason why Americans aren’t cracking open checkbooks and making political donations.

“Politics and politicians are dirty words these days, and that is due to the bad reputation they have brought to themselves for the past number of years,” said Post Harvest Technologies chief executive officer Jim White. “Main Street Americans don’t trust their hard-earned money will be used to solve real-world problems. Instead, they fear the cash will go to the extreme ends of political spectrums rather than the middle, which is where deals are made.”

Additionally, donations to political campaigns aren’t tax-deductible, taking at least one direct financial reason to back a campaign off the table.

“That said, you can get a tax deduction by giving to many non-profit advocacy groups which promote policies you support,” McMillan said. “On their donations page, such groups will state that donations are tax-deductible or that the non-profit is a “501 (c) (3)” organization.”

If You Do Donate . . .

Once any decision is made to make a political campaign donation, do your due diligence before cutting any checks.

“Some great websites, like OpenSecrets and FollowTheMoney, allow you to see how contributions are directed,” said White, whose company has developed relationships with politicians. “You can clearly see where the money to a particular candidate is coming from and the kind of expenses being taken. This will allow you to ensure your money is being well spent on a candidate you can trust.”

It’s also a good idea to get to know your candidates.

“Don’t just accept their campaign ads, videos, and marketing,” White noted. “Politicians should be willing to meet in person or by phone to discuss your advocacy agenda. Don’t hesitate to be vocal and make sure they know who you are — and won’t forget you — when they are hopefully elected.”

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