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Who gives more? Breakdown right/left wing giving: studies of charitable conservative vs: liberal political party charity

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Surveys are not cast in iron.


Questions are raised.

Recently, James Watkins offered me two links explaining how conservatives are more charitable than liberals. We had exchanged comments on his anti-Union hub and, as I respect (though usually disagree with) this conservative hubber, I read the suggested links with interest. (There's two plugs for you, JW!)

The first link, written with glee by known conservative journalist George Will revealed the results of a 2008 survey conducted by an "Independent" voter:

"Of those surveyed, those who live in conservative households donated an average of $3,255 to charities outside of places of worship during the past year. By comparison, moderate households donated $2,926 and liberal households donated $1,879."

The second link reviewed a book by Arthur C. Brooks, a professor at Syracuse University, Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism , which concluded,

"The surprise is that liberals are markedly less charitable than conservatives."

I found these links fascinating because of what they did not say, more than in what they did say. These articles raised several unaddressed clarifications I need before I can conclude that they communicate valuable information:

  • These articles articulated generosity in terms of giving money versus giving time. Time is money, as we all know. Why isn't time calculated into the study? When a person contributes time, they are losing the opportunity cost of making money. Time, therefore, should be a factor. Do conservatives contribute more time to charities?
  • They did not address what types of jobs liberals versus conservatives held, they only addressed how their incomes were distributed to charities. How many liberals work directly with at risk populations as opposed to conservatives? This raises another question for me: of those who work directly with at risk populations , how many do not report the many, many dollars, meals, clothing donations, etc. that slip into the hands of these populations without being recorded?
  • They did not address to whom this philanthropy was given, i.e, did these folk donate money to benefit their children's schools or activities in the form of auctions, golf tournaments, benefits? Did they donate cast off furniture to charity and write that off? There is an interesting study done by Indiana University titled Giving Focused on Helping the Poor. "This analysis finds that less than one-third of the money individuals gave to nonprofits in 2005 was focused on the needs of the economically disadvantaged. Of the $250 billion in donations, less than $78 billion explicitly targeted those in need." Is there a breakdown of who gave the $78 billion versus the remaining $172 billion?
  • When the survey said liberals contributed a smaller percentage of their income, might it be because they had less disposable income? Consider this:
  1. Sandra Bullock giving $1 million dollars to Japan Relief is wonderful, but in terms of her actual income (Annual: USD 22,000,000.00; Monthly: USD 1,833,333.00; Weekly: USD 440,000.00; Daily: USD 88,000.00) it's about one day's work.
  2. Compare that to a $250,000 annual wage earner making less than $700 per day, yet paying the same for groceries, gas, utilities; what's left over at the end of the day for that guy?
  3. Or worse, the 4 million people earning minimum wage in 2010 who made $7.25 an hour or $58 a day, $290 a week, $1160 a month, and totaled $13,920 for the entire year. Can these earners afford to give one entire day's salary to charity?

Conservatives happier because they rationalize away poverty?

I have heard of marginalizing poor in the United States, but rationalizing away poverty? That's a new concept to consider.

New York University's Jaime L. Napier and John T. Jost conducted a fascinating study on liberal versus conservative responses to the poor, called Why are conservatives happier, anyway?

In an astonishing revelation, these men found that "political conservatives are more likely than liberal and moderates to accept and justify the existence of unequal outcomes and to see them as fair and legitimate"!

Specifically, they "found that right-wing (vs. left-wing) orientation is indeed associated with greater subjective well being and that the relation between political orientation and subjective well-being is mediated by the rationalization of inequality. In our third study, we found that increasing economic inequality (as measured by the Gini index) from 1974 to 2004 has exacerbated the happiness gap between liberals and conservatives, apparently because conservatives (more than liberals) possess an ideological buffer against the negative hedonic effects of economic inequality."

Nowhere is this clearer than in the Budget Debates on the floor of the Senate and the House, where The Difference Between Liberal and Conservative Cuts are laid out. I cannot tell you, James, how researching this subject has literally made me sick to my stomach. Call me a bleeding heart liberal, but oh God, I prefer that to what Conservatives have done to the least of U.S.

May God forgive our greedy souls.

© 2011 Barbara


Barbara (author) from Stepping past clutter on May 24, 2013:

Amonite, thank you for your comment.

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Amonite on May 23, 2013:

Yes, conservatives donate more time, as well as money.

Yes, conservatives (at least religious ones, which is most of them) donate time/money to the disenfranchised. Most homeless shelters, homes for battered women, pre-foster aid programs, general need programs, house repair programs, job programs, etc in my area (Seattle) are Christian. To serve 'widows and orphans', so to speak, is a mission of most churches, and so they will have benevolence programs and community outreach to children, prisoners, single moms, or whatever the need in their community is.

Also, they have found that liberals, even with higher income, pay less money to charity.

Your arguments seem to be speculation. "I don't like what the data is saying, so I am going to make up some unproved theory about republicans and beg my premise".

Many of your questions (such as time vs. money) were inside the Brook's study.

Barbara (author) from Stepping past clutter on October 09, 2012:

In September, the Gallup Poll breakdown of voting preferences by Annual Household Income was as follows:

$1- 24,000 Obama 58%

$24- $36,000 Obama 53%

$36- 48,000 Obama 49%

$48- $60,000 Romney 49%

$60- 90,000 Romney 49%

$90- 120,000 Obama 49%

$120- 180,000 Romney 51%

$180,000+ Romney 52%

Obviously, Romney is doing something appealing to wealthier voters, and I don't think it is called entitlement.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Republicans are for both the man and the dollar, but in case of conflict the man before the dollar.”

What life-long Party members fail to recognize is that the Parties change. The Lincoln party is no longer the party of the Republicans. That Party changed when the Religious Right took over in the 70s- when my parents went from being staunch Republican activists to voting Democrat and I became an Independent.

The middle class tends to be conservative on the economy and liberal on social issues, fyi.

secularist10 from New York City on October 02, 2012:

Very nice hub.

This is an excellent point:

"How many liberals work directly with at risk populations as opposed to conservatives?"

In my experience, those who work directly with at-risk populations and in similar kinds of positions are overwhelmingly liberal. In fact, almost universally liberal.

In addition, it's worth noting that since the vast majority of the poor, working poor and lower middle class are liberal/ Democrats, many liberals will actually be the *recipients* of charity! Giving to charity is fine, but let's remember that somebody is actually receiving this money, lol.

In which case perhaps it would be more interesting to look at the population of those who give to charity in various ways, and determine what proportion is conservative and liberal, instead of the reverse (looking at conservatives and liberals, and then seeing who gives to charity).

James mentioned that liberals make more money than conservatives. I assume this is on average, since he did not specify. And the reason that on average liberals make more is because income is concentrated in the tiny elite at the top, which pulls up the average income. So movie stars, pro atheletes, celebrity musicians, CEOs and others who overwhelmingly tend to be liberal, their salaries pull up the average for liberals.

But since, again, the typical poor or working poor person is liberal (and their population is much greater than that rich elite), the actual "typical" liberal person is probably poorer than the typical conservative, since the latter are concentrated in the middle class.

Barbara (author) from Stepping past clutter on May 02, 2011:

Mickey Dee, I am sorry you are offended by this man. I think he tries his best to figure things out, but does not have the sensitivity to understand what it is like to actually live within the context of all he judges. In other words, his brain has yet to connect with his heart.

Our only recourse is to forgive guys like James, and pray that someday he will get it.

Your Vietnam experience speaks loud and clear in painfully poignant poetry and heart-wrenching hubs. Hugs, dear friend. You are precious.

Micky Dee on May 02, 2011:

I can't get past James Twatkins. I hate his Vietnam War hub and he should take it down. James Twatkins is a political idiot.

Barbara (author) from Stepping past clutter on April 28, 2011:

James, I am sorry that you are unwilling to hear what I say on a deep level.

TeaPartyCrasher, I think I need to read some of your hubs. You are quite new to me!

TeaPartyCrasher from Camp Hill, PA on April 26, 2011:


To me there's a difference between giving money to the poor and working for the poor.

But then there's that whole quote about feeding the poor and being called a saint, and asking why they're poor and being called a communist.

A good reading of the hub of mine I referenced may be in order for you as well. Unless all that exposure to Beck, etc has atropied your brain into rejecting anything that hasn't been approved by corps and their CEOs. . .

James A Watkins from Chicago on April 26, 2011:

Keep this quote from John Adams in mind: "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."

The book I told you about includes these facts: Conservatives donate 30% more to charity but earn 6% less than Liberals. (This answers your question in your Hub)

Conservatives give more money than liberals in every income class.

If liberals and moderates gave blood at the same rate as conservatives, the blood supply in the U.S. would increase 45%.

The author of this book is a professor at Syracuse. He was raised a liberal, was liberal most his life, but in grad school he studied public policy and then became an independent.

He wrote: "Charity is a personal, voluntary sacrifice for the good of another person. Religious people are statistically more likely to give than secularists (91% to 66%), and give more of their money (3.5 times more than secularists. The fact that the conservative population is more charitable than the liberal population is due to the fact that religious people tend to be politically conservative.

In answer to your time question, the same book notes that in fact "Conservatives are more likely to volunteer their time (67% to 44%), and volunteer more of their time (almost twice as much)."

I only point this out to rebut the liberal propaganda that Conservative people don't care about the poor. These statistics prove that slogan to be utter nonsense at the least, blatant lying at the worst.

Conservatives want to give out of their own wallets to the poor. Liberals want to give out of YOUR wallet to the poor.

All of this "vote for me and I'll give you somebody else's property" is the worst kind of demagoguery. In my opinion.

aslanlight from England on April 25, 2011:

There is one equaliser though; the rich and greedy have a great poverty of the soul!

A heart rending and moving hub.

Barbara (author) from Stepping past clutter on April 23, 2011:

TPC, I will definitely read that hub. Thanks for the feedback!

lilyfly, I thought it would have been appropriate to quote the verse about the widow's mite. I love that story and I appreciate you reminding me about it. You remind me that some give for show and some give for love. Thanks.

Mimi, a radio announcer said everyone needs at least three hugs a day t maintain their sanity. Hands on help, being there, hugs, smiles... they all brighten our days. Human touch makes a difference. I also appreciate the amazing speeches Obama has given that reveal his huge heart. Thanks for your comment.

Mimi721wis on April 22, 2011:

Great article. When it comes to communities, it take hands on just as much as it does money. People need the human touch. That's one of the genuine qualities I love about president Barack Obama.

lilyfly on April 21, 2011:

I'll never forget watching some snaky televangelist say that he deserved to drive a friggin. Cadillac. He also stated that poor people don't give as much as rich people. All this, after I'd given my last 40 dollars so that some poor african kid could have clean water. Yep, I looked out at my old junker, and wrote this a-hole a riot act. I think the poor can be considered as the poor woman who threw her last two mites into the pot. We give all that we can, that we don't have more, is probably the fault of the Govt., who do not give citzens tax breaks. For instance, I paid 9,500 in taxes, and got 500 back. lily

TeaPartyCrasher from Camp Hill, PA on April 21, 2011:

Also, Liberals are more likely to give time and effort to groups that work FOR the poor as well as WITH them; unions, groups that work against corporate power, etc.

See my hub 'Social Service, Social Justice'

Barbara (author) from Stepping past clutter on April 21, 2011:

Georgiakevin, thank you! You are new to me. I will have to visit your site.

junko, interesting observation! I will have to pay attention. Thanks for stopping by.

tonymac, excellent contribution to support exactly what I am trying to say in this hub. The hymn is abhorrent and the mindset it supports is not of God. The poem I wrote a week back was an attempt to address this notion that the rich deserve their wealth because they earned it all by themselves. This opinion is held and continually expressed by one of my closest friends. Could use tweaking, but here you have it: Thanks again for your passionate response, tonymac. Hope you read YOUR hub from me, Same stuff as stars. You do bring out the best in me!

Paraglider, thank you for your kind heart.

Dave McClure from Worcester, UK on April 21, 2011:

Great work, Storytellersrus. Your analysis is right on target. Keep spreading the word.

Tony McGregor from South Africa on April 20, 2011:

As a left winger (according to James, an "ultra-liberal!) I think your article is spot on! I think the difference lies in the way poverty is perceived, as expressed in that horrible hymn by Cecil Frances Alexander "All Things Bright and Beautiful": "The rich man in his castle, / The poor man at his gate, / God made them high and lowly, / And ordered their estate." As if God has made poverty and ordained that it stay. That is a pernicious lie.

I think that hymn, at least that verse of it, is positively evil and has at some level brainwashed right wing Christians into believing that the gap between rich and poor is natural and good.

I admit that I do not give much to charity, and that is quite deliberate. Firstly many organised charities spend more on admin and keeping the charity going than in actual giving to those in need. Fellow-Hubber De Greek has written a wonderfully acid Hub on that question:

The second reason is that I try to do things (like write about it here) to change the way things are, while giving to charities is often an attempt to ameliorate the situation and salve consciences. As my dear friend Desmond Tutu used to say in the bad old days of apartheid, "We don't want our chains made more comfortable, we want them removed." So I think the higher level of giving by conservatives has less to do with generosity (which is not to say that many conservatives are ungenerous, I'm sure many are very generous) than with political expediency.

This is a great Hub and I really hope friend James comes to read it!

Love and peace


junko on April 20, 2011:

Do it again, Storytellersrus. I love the way you think. I've seen many thoughtful political post since the mid-term elections by some fire up women here on hubpages. That's Good.

Georgiakevin from Central Georgia on April 20, 2011:

Well written! I very much agree with you.

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