Academic journal article Political Research Quarterly

A Woman's Work Is Never Done? Fund-Raising Perception and Effort among Female State Legislative Candidates

Academic journal article Political Research Quarterly

A Woman's Work Is Never Done? Fund-Raising Perception and Effort among Female State Legislative Candidates

Article excerpt

The lack of female politicians has been attributed to a lack of female candidates for office. However, the reason why there are so few female candidates is not clear. The author examines whether differences in fund-raising perceptions and effort between female and male state legislative candidates contribute to the lack of female candidates. The results indicate that women do tend to be more concerned about fund-raising, as is evidenced by greater effort devoted to this campaign function as compared to their male counterparts. Women use more techniques and rely on more sources to secure funds for their campaigns. This suggests that part of the reason women are reluctant to run for office may be due to the fact that they will have to devote more effort to a task candidates generally find distasteful.

Keywords: female candidates; state legislative elections; fund-raising

Despite research showing women are not at a competitive disadvantage when running for office or raising funds for such an endeavor, there still continues to be a dearth of women who do actually run for office. In fact, the number of women seeking office in state legislatures actually declined from 2,375 in 1992 to 2,220 in the 2004 election cycle (Center for American Women and Politics [CAWP] 2004a). The lack of qualified female candidates is of concern to many, as research has shown the presence (or absence) of women in legislative institutions has important implications for both descriptive and proscriptive representation. Part of the reason there are fewer female candidates is that women are less likely to think they are qualified to run or that they are going to win if they do run. This raises the question as to why women think this is the case.

Perhaps part of the answer is concerns about fundraising. Voters seem to believe female candidates will have greater difficulty securing funds for their campaigns (Ford 2002). Female candidates may feel the same way. Ironically, the emergence of women's political action committees (PACs) that stress the importance of early money may reinforce these fears (that female candidates need yeast to make dough rise whereas male candidates do not). Thus, it may be that women are more concerned about their ability to gain adequate financial backing to mount a successful campaign than are men. Such concerns may also lead women to organize their campaigns differently, with women casting a wider fund-raising net. Thus, while women may be just as (or more) successful than men when it comes to the amount of funds they raise, they may have to devote more effort to reach this parity. Several questions are suggested by this line of thought. First, are women more concerned about their ability to fund-raise? Second, do such concerns translate into the utilization of more fundraising techniques? Finally, do female candidates rely on more sources for raising campaign funds?

This article examines these questions by comparing male and female state legislative candidates' perceptions about and effort devoted to fund-raising. Surveys of state legislative candidates from nine states in the 1996 election cycle are utilized to examine the extent to which women are more concerned about their ability to raise funds. Additionally, this analysis examines whether male and female candidates rate the importance of various fund-raising techniques and sources differently. In general, the analyses show that women do tend to be more concerned than men about fund-raising, although the differences are not statistically significant. Additionally, women are more likely to rate as important more fundraising techniques and sources in their campaign. This suggests that while women raise as much money as men in state legislative campaigns, they must worker harder to achieve this parity, relying on more techniques and hitting up more people and groups for money. Potential female candidates may be aware of these differences, contributing to their reluctance to run for office and thus to gender imbalances in the number of candidates for legislative office and, ultimately, legislators.

Explaining the Presence and Absence of Female Candidates for Office

Currently in the United States, female representatives, at all levels, make up a smaller percentage of legislative bodies than they do of the population at large. For example, in 2003, only 13.6 percentage of congresspersons were female and only 22.5 percent of state legislators were female (CAWP 2004a). Due to the fact that the representation of women in legislative bodies has important implications for the representation of women's policy concerns and how decisions are actually made in these legislative bodies (see Dolan and Ford [1998] for a more complete discussion of this topic), much research has focused on the lack of female representation in legislatures in the United States.

Initially, it was thought that women must be facing discrimination in the electoral system. However, research has demonstrated that such discrimination is increasingly rare in terms of electoral outcomes. When women run for office, both at the national and state levels, they are just as successful as men when controlling for incumbency status (Burrell 1992, 1994; Darcy, Welch, and Clark 1994; Dolan 1998; DuehrstLahti 1998; Huddy and Terkildsen 1993; Seltzer, Newman, and Leighton 1997; Smith and Fox 2001). In fact, in comparing success rates for open-seat candidates, women typically fare as well as if not better than men (Burrell 1992, 1994; Duehrst-Lahti 1998; Newman 1994; Thompson and Steckenrider 1997).

Additionally, female candidates tend to fare just as well as their male counterparts when it comes to financing their campaigns. Again, women consistently do as well as if not better than men when it comes to attracting funds for their candidacies (Burrell 1998, 1994; Darcy, Welch, and Clark 1994; Fox 2000). Research has shown women fare as well as men in soliciting large donations (Burrell 1994), from a variety of PACs (Theilmann and Wilhite 1991), early donations (Burrell 1994), and political parties (Burrell 1994). Thus, the key to explaining why there are not more women serving in the legislature, both at the national and subnational level, is not that women have a difficult time in the electoral arena. Rather, few women serve in the legislature because fewer women run for elective office than men.1

As a result, research has begun to focus on explaining why fewer women emerge as candidates. It seems that generally speaking, women are more reluctant to run for office than their male counterparts. Research has revealed "eligible" women (or women in positions that make them most likely to run for office) are less likely to consider running for office, less likely to see themselves as qualified to run for office, and less confident in their ability to win if they do run than are men with similar backgrounds (Fox and Lawless 2004; National Women's Political Caucus [NWPC] 1994). But while we do know that women are less confident and therefore less likely to run, we do not know why this is so. As Fox and Lawless (2004, 275) noted, "We have little data to help pinpoint the source of women and men's different beliefs about their own qualifications."

One potential explanation for this hesitation on the part of women is concerns about fund-raising. Despite the fact that female candidates are not disadvantaged when it comes to raising money, this does not mean that potential female candidates know this. Or it may be that they do know that they will have to work long and hard (and longer and harder than men do) to raise enough funds to mount a competitive candidacy. In fact, Witt, Paget, and Matthews (1994, 132-33) asserted that many believe potential donors are less likely to contribute to women's campaigns, women are less psychologically disposed to ask for money, and women are less likely to have developed financial networks to help their campaigns. They argued women are not accustomed to asking for things for themselves, nor do they feel comfortable with the self-promotion fund-raising requires. Thus, women may dislike the idea of spending large amounts of time asking people for money and may think they will have to do a lot of this. This, in turn, may lead them to decide not to run for office to avoid having to do something they find distasteful.2 Witt, Paget, and Matthews noted that money as a deterrent to seeking higher office was a common concern cited by potential female candidates. Thus, it seems reasonable to hypothesize that money may be a deterrent to an initial decision to enter into the political arena and seek a lower level political office.

Furthermore, if women generally are more concerned about their ability to raise funds, then it may also be that women are more aggressive in working to acquire these funds. They may devote more effort to chasing money, relying on multiple fund-raising techniques and focusing on a wide variety of sources for these campaign funds. If this is the case, this additional effort may help explain why woman raise as much money as men despite the fact that they are more concerned about their ability to do so. Women may raise as much money because they cast a wider net when appealing for campaign funds. Thus, understanding how women feel about fund-raising may be an important initial step in determining why women are more reluctant to run for office.

Data and Method

The data for this analysis come from a survey of major party state legislative candidates from nine U.S. states (Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, South Carolina, Washington, and Wisconsin) taken in the 1996 election cycle (see the appendix for information on survey methods). A number of questions from this survey are of interest for this analysis. First, candidates were asked whether they had concerns about their ability to raise funds, the importance of a variety of groups in their fund-raising efforts, and the importance of various fund-raising techniques (see the appendix for the exact wording of these questions). The candidates were also asked a number of demographic questions, including gender and occupation, as well as political questions, such as party affiliation, position in the general election (incumbent, challenger, or open seat), competitiveness of the election, how many times prior to this election they had run for this office, and previous political experience. Thus, the responses of male and female candidates to the fundraising questions can be compared while controlling for a number of other factors that may impact responses to these questions. Since this research is focused on the impact of fund-raising perceptions on the initial decision to run, only challengers and openseat candidates were included in this analysis. Presumably, since incumbents have already run for office and won, they should be quite aware of the amount of fund-raising they would have to undertake in this endeavor.3

It might be argued that looking only at state legislative candidates does not provide an accurate picture of why women choose not to run for office since these people have decided to become candidates. However, if there are gender differences across the board, as previous research suggests about the decision to run for office generally, then we would expect these differences to remain even for those who have made the decision to run for office. Furthermore, analyzing differences between candidates is a more stringent test of these hypotheses than examining differences between potential candidates as these people have overcome any reluctance to run. Presumably, these women (as well as the men examined here) have decided to run despite any trepidations about fundraising. Thus, if differences do exist between those who have decided to run, it seems reasonable to suggest that such differences also exist for potential candidates. It may be that differences for potential candidates are even larger given there are theoretical reasons to believe women will have greater concerns about raising money. However, care must be taken in extrapolating these results to potential candidates.

In looking at the data, an initial bivariate analysis was run to see whether there were significant differences between the sexes on the dependent variables from above: fund-raising concerns, the importance of various groups for fund-raising, and the importance of various fund-raising techniques. When significant differences were found in these bivariate analyses, a multivariate analysis was run to control for the potential impact of other factors. The ten variables where significant differences emerged were ordinal variables; therefore, an ordered regression model was used as it is the appropriate method for examining the relationships between the independent and dependent variables (Borooah 2002).

The multivariate model includes gender (O for female, 1 for male) as well political party (1 for Democrat, 2 for Republican), open-seat status (O for challengers, 1 for open seat), whether the candidate had previously run for office (O for no previous times and 1 for one or more previous attempts), and how competitive the election was (O for low competition, 1 for some competition).4

Results

Generally speaking, female candidates for the state legislature do seem to be slightly more concerned about their ability to raise the funds necessary to mount an effective campaign, as is shown in Table 1. This is true for all the subsets of candidates examined: female challengers, open-seat candidates, candidates in competitive races, Republicans, Democrats, those with no experience running for office or in holding elective office, and in a variety of occupations. All were more concerned about fund-raising than similar male candidates. However, none of these differences were statistically significant. In some cases, this is probably due to the fact that the differences are fairly small. For instance, only 1.5 percent more female challengers were concerned than male challengers. However, in other cases, the lack of significance is probably due in part to the small number of cases in a particular category. Comparing open-seat candidates, 19.9 percent more women were concerned than men, but there were only twenty-nine open-seat female candidates. Republican women were also more likely to be concerned about fund-raising, with a difference between men and women in this category of 11.9 percent. Once again though, there were only twenty-eight women in this category, so this result was not significant. Despite the lack of significance, the consistency of these findings is striking; in every category examined, women were more likely to be concerned than their male counterparts.

So, the next question that emerges is what impact these concerns have on the fund-raising activities of male and female state legislative candidates. As Table 2 indicates, women are more likely to rate the importance of a variety of groups as being extremely important to their fund-raising efforts than are men.5 For every group except the national party committee, women were more likely to rate the group as being extremely important to their fund-raising efforts than were men. Women were also less likely to rate the group as being not important for every group examined here. For example, 9.6 percent more female candidates rated the state party as being extremely important as compared to male candidates, while 10.8 percent fewer female candidates said the state party was not at all important. A number of these differences are statistically significant, too. The difference in ratings for the state party, the state legislative campaign committee, labor unions, interest groups, and PACs are all significant. As the chi-square and Cramer's V indicate, the largest differences fall into the last two categories. This reinforces the conventional wisdom that women's groups and PACs are important players in the electoral arena, particularly when it comes to funding female candidates.

A similar pattern emerges when the ratings of the importance of various fund-raising techniques by female and male candidates are compared. Table 3 reveals women were more likely to rate each technique as extremely important and less likely to rate the technique as not important. For example, 8.5 percent more women than men rated direct mail as extremely important, and 12.4 percent fewer rated it not important. Most of these differences are statistically significant, too; the differences in ratings for direct mail, television advertising, large fund-raising functions, requesting funds from other party committees, and contact with political action committees are all significant. Once again, the largest differences relate to female candidates' dealings with political action committees. Eighteen percent more women rated contact with PACs as extremely important, while 17.4 percent fewer women rated this technique as not important.

So, the picture that emerges in the bivariate analysis is one where women are much more likely to rely on PACs in procuring campaign financing than are men. However, the differences between men and women do not stop here. Women are also more likely to rate a variety of fund-raising techniques and the fund-raising assistance of a number of groups as being extremely important than are men. Summary variables were created that summed the importance ratings of each technique and each group.6 The average women's ratings (21.19) for these groups were 3 points higher than the average ratings for men (18.01); again, these differences were statistically significant. Women's ratings (19.47) of the various fund-raising techniques were approximately 2.5 points higher, on average, than were men's (17.08); this difference is also significant. Finally, women are also slightly more likely to be concerned about fundraising than are men, although these differences were not statistically significant. All in all, though, the data suggest that while female state legislative candidates do raise as much money as male state legislative candidates, they must work more aggressively to do so, by employing multiple methods and targeting multiple sources.

Of course, it could be argued that such connections are spurious, and it is necessary to control for other factors before determining that women truly are more concerned about fund-raising.7 Thus, multivariate models were estimated for all of the significant relationships discovered in the bivariate analysis. What is striking across all of these multivariate models is that in almost every situation, there are significant differences between the genders in terms of fund-raising activities even after controlling for a number of factors.8

Looking at Table 4, which reports the results for the models estimating the importance of various groups to candidates' fund-raising efforts, gender is significant in every model.9 Women are more likely to rate the state party, the state legislative campaign committee, labor unions, interest groups, and PACs as extremely important than are men. Thus, the bivariate relationships remain even after controlling for party identification, open-seat status, previous attempts to run for office, and the competitiveness of the election. Additionally, gender is the only variable that is significant in all of the models.

From the ordered logit analysis, the predicted probabilities of male and female candidates rating these groups at a given level of importance can be calculated.10 These predicted probabilities are presented in Table 5. In every case, men were more likely to rate the given actor as not important, while women were more likely to rate that actor as very or extremely important. For example, men had a predicted probability of .316 of rating PACs as not important while women had a predicted probability of .208, indicating men were 50 percent more likely to rate PACs as not important. Conversely, women had a .149 predicted probability of rating PACs as extremely important while men had a predicted probability of .090, indicating women were more than 65 percent more likely to rate PACs as extremely important. Thus, the data reveal that women are far more likely to rely on a variety of groups in their fund-raising efforts than are men.

Gender is also a significant predictor of whether a candidate rated direct mail solicitation, television advertising, and contact with political action committees are being extremely important, as Table 6 shows. In each of these three cases, women were significantly more likely to report these techniques as being extremely important than were men.

Once again, the predicted probabilities, shown in Table 7, indicate that for these techniques, men were always more likely to rate the technique as not important, while women were always more likely to rate it as very or extremely important. For instance, men had a predicted .227 probability while women had a predicted .160 probability of indicating direct mail was not important, revealing men were almost 30 percent more likely to rate this technique as not important. Conversely, women had a .251 predicted probability while men had a . 179 predicted probability of rating direct mail extremely important, a difference of more than 40 percent. Clearly, then, women also rely more heavily on a wider variety of techniques in their fund-raising efforts than do men.

Discussion

The results presented here support the hypotheses about female state legislative candidates and fundraising. Women are more concerned than men about their ability to raise funds. While these differences were not statistically significant (probably due to the small number of cases being examined), the results were quite consistent. When looking at a variety of different types of candidates, females were always more concerned than males. These concerns translate into a reliance on more sources and more techniques for female candidates. Of the fifteen different sources and techniques examined here, there were statistically significant differences between men and women for eight in the multivariate analysis. Women were more likely to rate the state party, the legislative campaign committee, labor unions, interest groups, and PACs as extremely important to their fund-raising efforts than were men. Finally, women were more likely to rate direct mail, television ads, and contact with PACs as extremely important techniques in their fund-raising than were men. These results present a clear and consistent finding: while women may raise as much money as men, they must work harder to do so by asking more sources and using a wider variety of techniques and services. Thus, contrary to the findings of Dabelko and Herrnson (1997) who observed men and women assemble similar organizations and run similar campaigns, female candidates clearly assemble more extensive fund-raising operations than male candidates."

Thus, while women's PACs have certainly led to parity in fund-raising and so have helped increase the number of women serving in elected positions, women still face difficulties in the electoral arena that may influence their initial decision to run for office. It is fairly well accepted that most candidates dislike fund-raising, and women, it turns out, have to do more of it. Thus, it is probably not surprising that fewer women run. When considering whether to run, women may see that they will have to work long and hard (and longer and harder than men) doing something they find distasteful and so may decide that the expected benefits are not worth the effort. While women's PACs have certainly been beneficial to female candidates, their mantra that women must focus on fund-raising may discourage potential female candidates from entering into the electoral arena. Perhaps these groups, among others, must do more to reach out not only to those women who are running but to those are who qualified to run to assure them that they will be able to mount well-financed and successful campaigns.

Finally, more research is needed to understand why women do not run, particularly since the number of women running for office in recent years has been declining from an all time high in 1992 (CAWP 2004b). Fox and Lawless (2004), among others, have shown women are less likely to run. Future research should replicate their methods and survey potential candidates but should particularly focus on those who have contemplated running but who decided not to do so. Determining why these women chose not to run is critical to increasing the representation of women and women's interests in the political arena.

[Sidebar]

Author's Note: I thank John Prendrais and Alan Gitelson for the use of their data as well as Doug Roscoe for his comments and Matt Sylvain for his research assistance. Data for replication of the analysis are available from the author.

Notes

1. Of course, the fact that incumbents are more likely to win and are more likely to be male hurts women generally. In other words, part of the reason legislatures are so male-dominated is because men win seats and then keep them for a long time, thus leading to a lack of opportunities for women. However, if this were the sole reason for the lack of female representation, then women should be running for open seats just as frequently as men. This is not the case, though; men and women do not run at equal rates in open-seat races. For instance, in the period from 1986 to 1992, only about 24 percent of state legislative candidates in open-seat races were female (Duehrst-Lahti 1998). More recently, 21.7 percent of all female candidates for state legislative seats were candidates in open-seat races in 2006 (Gilda Morales, project manager, information services, Center for Women and Politics [CAWP], personal communication, November 15, 2006). Thus, emergence appears to be the critical variable in explaining the lack of female representation.

2. This opinion seems to be shared by most politicians, regardless of gender, although it may be the case that, as Witt, Paget, and Matthews (1994) claimed, woman are more uncomfortable than men in doing this. see Open secrets (http://www .opensecrets.org/pubs/speaking/speaking03.html) for examples of how current politicians indicate that they too generally find this task distasteful.

3. Incumbent candidates did not differ significantly from open-seat candidates and challengers in terms of responses to these questions, so the exclusion of incumbent candidates in the analysis did not change the results presented here.

4. The first two variables are dichotomous, but the latter two variables had multiple categories. Given that the ordered logit essentially creates a controlled cross-tabulation, the large number of categories created when all of these variables were included as originally coded caused problems. Therefore, the categories in these variables were collapsed. For the competitive variable, no opposition, no competition, and slight competition were included in the low-competition category; while moderately, very, and extremely competitive were included in the some-competition category. The models were also estimated controlling for whether the candidate had a background in business or law, to see if having an occupation with potential connections to financial networks made a difference. This variable was not significant in any of the models, and its inclusion did not alter the results in any meaningful way, so it is not presented in the results that follow.

5. It might be argued that these differences are merely a reflection of different evaluative schemes used by men and women. In other words, women rate these groups as more important because they have a tendency to assign higher ratings generally. However, in looking at a number of variables in the survey not related to fund-raising, men rated these actors as more important than women in a variety of cases. Thus, these differences seem to reflect actual differences in how men and women's campaigns were organized rather than being an artifact of different rating techniques.

6. For the groups, there were eight listed; therefore, scores could range from 8 (all groups were not important) to 40 (all groups were extremely important). For the techniques, there were seven techniques, so scores could range from 7 to 35.

7. However, it should be noted that bivariate analysis reveals that few of the variables included in the multivariate models are significantly related to gender or each other, and those that are have extremely weak relationships.

8. The models were also estimated using the difference in vote share between the two major-party candidates as a proportion of the total vote for the competition variable. In all cases, the model performed less well as measured by the R-. Gender was no longer significant in the labor union model, and it was only significant at the p < .10 model for the TV model. In most cases, the effect for gender was unchanged, although for several models, the effect was larger with the dummy variable. On balance, then, regardless of which competition variable was included, there was not much difference in terms of the general conclusions drawn about gender. However, I believe the perception of competition measure is a better gauge of competition for the purposes here. If a candidate felt the race was competitive, then presumably he or she would act as if it were regardless of the actual level of competition as measured by vote totals. Therefore, I have presented the models with the collapsed competition variable.

9. Rather than looking at the impact of a given variable on the dependent variable as a regression does, the ordered logit compares the value of the dependent variable for the different categories of a given independent variable. Thus, the positive coefficients for gender indicate that women, when compared to men, give higher rankings on the dependent variables.

10. In calculating predicted probabilities, all other variables were held at their mode.

11. This is probably due to two factors: the first is that they examine congressional candidates who may have more experience in assembling and running campaigns, and the second is that they rely on campaign expenditures rather than specifically comparing the fund-raising operations of female and male candidates.

[Reference]

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[Author Affiliation]

Shannon Jenkins

University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

Appendix

As part of the Election Dynamics Project (EDP) survey, state legislative candidates and county party chairs were surveyed during the 1992, 1994, and 1996 election cycles in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, South Carolina, Washington, and Wisconsin. However, candidates were only asked about fund-raising in the 1996 cycle. While these states do not represent a random sample of U.S. states, they were chosen because there is a good deal of variation on key state political characteristics, such as political competition, party control of the legislature, governmental capability, and legislative professionalization.

In the 1996 election cycle, a total of 1,686 mail surveys were sent out to legislative candidates. A total of three waves of the survey were sent out; in each wave, candidates were sent a copy of the survey along with a return envelope with prepaid postage. The first and second waves were sent to all candidates, while the third wave was sent to selected candidates to maximize the number of responses in specific states and chambers. In all, a total of 887 surveys were returned for a response rate of approximately 53 percent. Responses were relatively evenly distributed among Democrats and Republicans and between those who won and lost.

While the full survey contained questions on a number of topics, the questions that are of interest here are those dealing with fund-raising. The wording of the questions utilized in this analysis are as follows:

15. How important were the following groups in providing your campaign with assistance infundraising? (Circle the number associated with the most appropriate choice for each group.)

Note: Emphasis in original. Respondents were asked to rank the importance of your family and friends, county party, state party, your party's state legislative campaign committee, national party committee (DNC or RNC), labor unions, other interest groups, and political action committees on a scale of 1 (not important) to 5 (extremely important).

20. How important were the following techniques to your Jundraising efforts? (Circle the appropriate choice for each technique.)

Note: Emphasis in original. Respondents were asked to rank the importance of direct mail, television advertising, asking individuals or small groups for money, large fund-raising functions, requesting funds from your party's state legislative campaign committee, requesting funds from other party committees, and contact with political action committees on a scale of 1 (not important) to 5 (extremely important).

22. When you decided to run for the state legislature in this election, did you have concerns about your ability to raise the funds which you thought would be necessary to run an effective campaign?

Note: This was an open-ended question. Respondents who indicated a concern were coded as having concerns, no response (or a response of no in the comments section) were coded as not having concerns.

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