Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Are Republicans More Generous?

A new study shows blue states give far less to charity than red states.

By - Sep 4th, 2012 11:52 am
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Are Democrats more stingy when it comes to charitable giving? A recent study by the Chronicle of Philanthropy ranked states in charitable giving as a percent of the average state resident’s income and found blue states were much less generous than red states. The differences from state to state were huge: in top ranked Utah, where the Mormon religion emphasizes giving, the average resident contributed 10.6 percent of their income to charity. In the Granite State of New Hampshire, its rock-ribbed residents gave just 2.5 percent to charity.

The story noted that the eight states that ranked highest in giving voted for John McCain in the last presidential contest while the seven lowest-ranking states supported Barack Obama.

But the difference is even bigger when you look further. Only one of the most generous 15 states leans Democratic: Maryland. Two others, North Carolina (9th) and Virginia (13th) have recently become swing states but have traditionally been Republican.

Meanwhile, 8 of the bottom 12 states in giving are blue states; three others are swing states that have lately leaned slightly blue: Iowa, ranked 40th, Wisconsin ranked 44th, and last-place New Hampshire. And just one of the bottom 12 states, North Dakota (ranked 43rd), is a true red state.

Why the difference in giving? Are Democrats just more selfish? That doesn’t seem to be true locally. If you compare Democratic Milwaukee County to three Republican counties bordering it, you get a different result: Milwaukee County residents give 4 percent of income to charity, versus 3.3 percent for Washington County, 3.7 percent for Waukesha County and 4 percent for Ozaukee County.

Religion makes a huge difference in giving, the Chronicle found: “Regions of the country that are deeply religious are more generous… Two of the top nine states—Utah and Idaho—have high numbers of Mormon residents, who have a tradition of tithing at least 10 percent of their income to the church. The remaining states in the top nine are all in the Bible Belt.”

When religious giving isn’t included, the rankings look very different, the Chronicle found. “Some states in the Northeast jump into the top 10 when secular gifts alone are counted. New York would vault from No. 18 to No. 2, and Pennsylvania would climb from No. 40 to No. 4.”

The gap in giving is even greater when you compare cities. Of the top 366 metro areas in America, Provo, Utah ranked number one, as residents gave 13.9 percent of their income to charity. Ranked dead last was Manchester-Nashua (in New Hampshire, naturally) where residents gave just 2.4 percent to charity.

Cheeseheads were nearly as cheap: Madison ranked 354th (giving 3 percent to charity), Green Bay ranked 353rd (3 percent to charity), and Janesville, Oshkosh, Fond du Lac, Appleton and Wausau also ranked in the bottom tenth of the nation’s top 366 metro areas. Milwaukee ranked 285th, nothing to brag about.

Meanwhile, in a country where the wealth gap is the largest it has ever been, well-to-do folks give a lower percentage of their money to charity.  “Households that earn $50,000 to $75,000 give an average of 7.6 percent of their discretionary income to charity,” the study found, compared to 4.2 percent for people who make $100,000 or more.

And the more isolated rich people are, the less they give. In zip codes where more than 40 percent of residents made more than $200,000 a year, the wealthy residents give an average of 2.8 percent of their income to charity, compared with an average of 4.2 percent for wealthy people living in more economically diverse neighborhoods.

One limitation on the study is that it is based only on IRS data for those earning $50,000 or more and who itemize deductions. This leaves out a lot of taxpayers and many lower income and lower middle class people. In Milwaukee, traditionally, giving has been more broad-based and not as dominated by large individual gifts. In that sense, the rankings may punish Milwaukee and understate its generosity.

Tommy Versus Tammy

- Multiple GOP sources have told the media that Tommy Thompson traveled to Florida for the Republican convention because his campaign for U.S. Senate was nearly broke and he needed to raise money. The tough GOP primary left him with only $353,000 in cash on hand for the general election against Tammy Baldwin, according to the most recent Federal Election Commission disclosures.

“The biggest question in my mind is whether or not there’s going to be adequate resources for Tommy to get his message out,” said Scott Walker, in a story by Roll Call.  “Congresswoman Baldwin,” he added, “is pouring tons of money into ads almost exclusively about attacking Tommy Thompson.”

Baldwin, meanwhile, had $3.5 million on hand as of the last campaign filing, in mid-July.

- One of the biggest challenges for Baldwin is how well Tommy has historically done in Milwaukee County. In his last three runs for governor, Thompson each time carried Milwaukee County, getting 54 percent in 1990, 65 percent in 1994, and 50 percent (to 48 percent for Democrat Ed Garvey) in 1998. Traditionally, a Democrat running statewide has needed to  get 60 percent of Milwaukee’s vote to win Wisconsin.

- Is Thompson ducking the debates? It’s been more then three weeks since his primary victory and he still hasn’t responded to Baldwin’s challenge to debate. She has accepted invitations for the Wisconsin Public Television debate in Wausau on October 18, also sponsored by Wisconsin Public Radio, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Today’s TMJ4; for the WISN “UpFront with Mike Gousha” debate in partnership with Marquette University Law School, October 26th; and for the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Foundation general election debate on October 28th.

5 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: Are Republicans More Generous?”

  1. GT says:

    Isn’t New Hampshire the Granite State?

  2. Bruce Murphy says:

    Yes, thanks, we fixed the mistake

  3. New Englander says:

    New Hampshire is about as libertarian a state as there is, from what I remember. “Live Free or Die” is its motto. They should run the analyses not just as red vs. blue but also as libertarian vs. communitarian.

  4. Dan says:

    I’d be interested in seeing the study re-ran where only actual charities are included. Sorry, but your church doesn’t count as a charity in my book, especially when the money given rarely is used for helping people other than church members.

  5. Conservatives have always been more interested in solving the problems of poverty, not just tossing money at it. Liberals only spend other people’s money.
    Liberals want big paychecks, bennies while the kids can’t read.

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