With one day left before the 2018 elections, all eyes are on the female nominees after a set of primaries broke a number of glass ceilings — notably, a record number of women running as congressional candidates, a record amount of money donated to congressional candidates by women, and a record number of women as major party nominees in both the House and the Senate. There was a significant increase in the percentage of congressional campaign contributions coming from female donors, and the trends benefiting Democratic candidates, notably Democratic women, have continued through the pre-general election deadline.
The 2018 election cycle largely shows increased participation by female donors to the benefit of Democratic candidates, both men and women. As with candidates, there has been a major surge in congressional contributions from women, again, to the benefit of Democratic candidates.
Democratic women have received the largest amount of money from female donors this cycle at $159 million — a significantly historic high when we are looking at general election numbers. It is nearly 2.5 times larger than the amount of money female Democratic congressional candidates raised from female donors in 2016. This is the first time we have witnessed women congressional candidates outraise men — both Republican and Democratic.
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Democratic men received a record-breaking $148 million from female donors. Continuing the trends from the second and third quarter, the surge in donations from women favors Democratic congressional candidates, who’ve raised $308 million from female donors. However, Democratic women have now raised the most money from female donors to congressional candidates documented in an election cycle. Prior to this cycle, men outraised women with female donors.
This major leap in the number of women running and the increased amount of money fundraised by women has not followed suit for the Republican women who are primary winners this cycle. The number of candidates who are women and the amount of money fundraised by women has not significantly increased for Republican women. The trends here are equally about party as they are gender.
Looking at the Republican ticket, GOP congressional candidates have not seen the same spike in contributions from female donors. Republicans have raised only $90 million from female donors this cycle, the majority of which went to the male Republican candidates. Republican men have raised over $71 million from female donors while Republican women received only $19 million. There are a small number of Republican women who are congressional candidates — only 46 House and 8 Senate — which contributes to the low amount of money raised by Republican women.
Incumbency and chamber have just as much of a correlation with this trend, as do gender and party. Within the fundraising totals from female donors to House candidates who are non-incumbents, Democratic women have fundraised more from female donors than male non-incumbents. However, House candidates who are incumbent men have outraised incumbent women with female donors.
The opposite is true for the Senate pool. Male Senate non-incumbents have outraised non-incumbent women with female donors. Conversely, Democratic women who are Senate incumbents have outraised incumbent men of both parties. Republican women have raised the least amount of money from female donors, regardless of their incumbency and chamber.
Female donors account for 36 percent of all contributions. While still far from gender parity, it’s a record-breaking feat nonetheless. This increase appears to be driven by donations for Democratic candidates, particularly Democratic women. In this cycle, 53 active candidates who have raised $100,000 or more are receiving at least half of their contributions from women. That number was 12 in 2016.
Although Democratic candidates are outraising Republican candidates with female donors — $308 million to $91 million — Republican candidates are receiving more money from women who are homemakers. Republican candidates received $21 million from women who are homemakers versus the $14 million fundraised by Democrats. On the other hand, Democrats are receiving more money from women who list a workplace. Democratic candidates received $294 million from women who list an employer over the Republican candidates’ $70 million.
In this record-breaking year for women, female candidates are seeing a major spike in their fundraising outlets. Traditionally, female candidates, particularly Democratic women, relied on money from individual donors, small contributions, and donations from female donors.
Democratic women receive the highest percentage of small individual contributions within their fundraising totals. Looking at the candidates’ fundraising totals, 18 percent of funds going to female Democratic House primary winners come from small contributions. For Republican women who are House primary winners, 13 percent of their fundraising totals come from small contributions. Almost a third — 31 percent — of fundraising totals for Democratic women who are Senate primary winners come from small individual contributions, while that number is 18 percent for Republican women.
For the first election cycle, female donors are giving more money to Democratic women than Democratic and Republican men. But if you’re looking at the percentages of these congressional contributions coming from female donors, it hasn’t changed much over time.
Democratic women have consistently raised around 40 percent of their contributions from female donors over time. For Republican men, on the other hand, around 24 percent of their contributions have continually come from female donors.
This year we are not only seeing more money coming from female donors to Democratic women, but more money from male donors going to Democratic women as well. So it’s just as much about party, incumbency, and chamber here as is it about gender.
Follow our gender page for more information on congressional candidates over time and the gender make-up of Congress.