With political divisions in the U.S. on stark display in the lead-up to midterm elections, a new study examines the philanthropic giving of voters in red and blue counties across the country to determine how party affiliation affects charitable giving.
Researchers at Brigham Young University, the University of Georgia, North Carolina State University and IUPUI (a partnership of Indiana and Purdue universities) found that voters who live in counties where political competition is high give less to charity.
The findings, they said, may indicate a sense among voters in those counties that they are unsure whether their contributions will to go to like-minded people.
“The more politically divided we get in our communities, the more we’re going to see consequences of that spill over into other facets of life, including our charitable giving,” Rob Christensen, the study’s co-author who teaches in the BYU Marriott School of Business, said in a statement.
“The more political competition in a county, the more suspicion there seems to be in how we spend our charitable dollars.”
The upside for charities of the country’s polarization, the findings suggest, is that donations will likely increase in red counties that get redder and in blue counties that get bluer.
“Lower levels of competition may be an indication that we’re sorting into enclaves of like-minded political preferences,” Rebecca Nesbit, a study co-author based at the University of Georgia, said in the statement. “While this sorting may lead to higher levels of charity, it may not help heal the political divisions in our country.”