What Clinton’s & Sanders’ Q2 Contributions Tell Us

If you want to understand the difference between supporters of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton you can see it by looking at where their contributions come from in the American Communities Project.

Both Mrs. Clinton and Sen. Sanders rely on densely populated urban centers for support – the Big Cities and Urban Suburbs – and that’s not a surprise. In the words of Willie Sutton, “that’s where the money is.”

But once you get past those areas the footprint for each takes a distinct shape with Mrs. Clinton doing better in the African American South and Mr. Sanders relying on College Towns.

The table below shows the number of contributions (not the amounts) in the second quarter of 2015 for Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Sanders by percentage.

Number of Contributions Coming from Each ACP Type by Percentage

Community Type Clinton Sanders



Graying America



African American South



Evangelical Hubs



Working Class Country



Military Posts



Urban Suburbs



Hispanic Centers



Native American Lands



Rural Middle America



College Towns



LDS Enclaves



Aging Farmlands



Big Cities



Middle Suburbs






To be clear, in terms of amounts and total contribution Mrs. Clinton was the leader, far and away, in Q2 2015, but the above chart shows the number of contributions to each candidate in relation to their whole. And with these numbers some of the broader campaign storylines on the candidates come into sharper focus.

For instance, note that Mrs. Clinton received 3.1% of her donations from counties that comprise the African American South, while Mr. Sanders drew less than 1% of his total contribution from there.

The low contributions from those counties are not a surprise. They hold only about 5% of the country’s 319 million people and they have lower incomes in general. Still the higher number for Mrs. Clinton is noteworthy and fits with her narrative of doing better with minority voters, which shows in her numbers with African Americans in polls, as we noted on NBC News’s site this past week.

For Mr. Sanders, the two numbers that pop in the above table are the contribution figures for College Towns and Rural Middle America – places from which he draws a noticeably larger percentage of his contributions than does Mrs. Clinton.

Those places stand out for a few reasons. College Town counties are more likely to hold the liberal Democratic voters that have been Mr. Sanders’ strength so far. College communities such as those around Madison, Wisconsin, Ithaca, New York, and, especially Cambridge, Massachusetts have given big amounts to him.

(Mr. Sanders drew an enormous amount of money from just one zip. More than 80% of his contributions came from one zip code, 02144, Somerville, Massachusetts in the shadow of Tufts, Harvard and M.I.T. It is the base of operations for Act Blue, a liberal-leaning fundraising and technology firm.)

The high ranking for Rural Middle America for Mr. Sanders is a bit more of surprise. Those counties tend to be more politically conservative, which would seem to be a somewhat odder fit for Mr. Sanders. They may be more receptive to Mr. Sanders because of his outsider message (those counties are generally more leery of Washington) and his talk of income inequality – those counties are also less wealthy than the nation as a whole.

One more note to keep in mind about Rural Middle America that might make Mr. Sanders’ supporters smile. Those counties, in royal blue on the map below, make up a large chunk of Iowa – where the first nominating contest will be held in about five months.


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