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From Nikki in Illinois – Do liberals or conservatives give more to charity?

Welcome to VoteFacts.  Today, we have Nikki from Illinois who asks,

"Who gives more to charity, liberals or conservatives?"

This is a great question because it is an issue that seems to provoke greater tension and division between the two sides, and yet it doesn't have to.  For starters, we can unite around the fact that we are collectively generous as a country, as we were ranked the most charitable nation in the World Giving Index. (Take that, Sri Lanka.)    Charity Aid Foudation   *SEE UPDATE BELOW*

And here is how the United States plays out internationally according to the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD).

The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD)

The OECD evaluated the net total social expenditures of 30 nations, including the United States.  Net total social expenditures include both public and private contributions to assist those in need.  At 28.8 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), the United States was ranked second highest in net total social expenditures in the OECD's most recent analysis.  OECD

It seems that we are doing pretty well in the giving-back category.  But  Nikki asks a more specific question than we have been able to answer from these reports.  In fact, there really isn't data out there that we could find beyond studies mentioned in media reports by the New York Times and Real Clear Politics.  Here is what they found.

The New York Times

Arthur Brooks, the author of a book on donors to charity, “Who Really Cares,” cites data that households headed by conservatives give 30 percent more to charity than households headed by liberals.  A study by Google found an even greater disproportion: average annual contributions reported by conservatives were almost double those of liberals.

Mr. Brooks says that if measuring by the percentage of income given, conservatives are more generous than liberals even to secular causes.  Other research has reached similar conclusions. The “generosity index” from the Catalogue for Philanthropy typically finds that red states are the most likely to give to nonprofits, while Northeastern states are least likely to do so.

Conservatives also appear to be more generous than liberals in nonfinancial ways. People in red states are considerably more likely to volunteer their time, and conservatives give blood more often. If liberals and moderates gave blood as often as conservatives, Mr. Brooks said, the American blood supply would increase by 45 percent.

In any case, if conservative donations often end up building extravagant churches, liberal donations frequently sustain art museums, symphonies, schools and universities that cater to the well-off.  (It’s great to support the arts and education, but they’re not the same as charity for the needy. And some research suggests that donations to education actually increase inequality because they go mostly to elite institutions attended by the wealthy.)   NYT

Real Clear Politics

•  People who reject the idea that “government has a responsibility to reduce income inequality” give an average of four times more than people who accept that proposition.  Residents of the states that voted for John Kerry in 2004 gave smaller percentages of their incomes to charity than did residents of states that voted for George Bush.  Bush carried 24 of the 25 states where charitable giving was above average.  Click here for RCP

It looks like liberals and conservatives are generous in their own ways and to the causes they feel passionately about (which sure seems understandable).  We think this is good news, but now we put today's question to you.  Conservatives often get charged with being greedy and not caring about the plight of their neighbors.  Does this ring true to you?  Try to focus on facts, and then head over and chime in.

UPDATE:   The United States was ranked first in the 2013 World Giving Index.  Its score of 61% was the highest on record.  In 2014, the United States was again ranked number one, as well as the only country to be ranked in the Top 10 for all three of the charitable giving behaviours covered by the World Giving Index: helping a stranger (1st), volunteering time (joint 5th) and donating money (9th). This performance is reflected in a further rise in the country’s overall World Giving Index, from a score of 61% last year to 64% in 2014. 2014 World Giving Index,  2013 World Giving Index

Screen Shot 2015-09-12 at 8.46.39 AM

Thank you to Nikki from Illinois for her contribution to this post.  Screen Shot 2014-12-06 at 4.33.23 PM

VoteFacts original post date September 2012

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