Brandice Canes-Wrone - Donors and Dollars: Comparing the Policy Views of Donors and the Affluent

Encina Hall West, room 400

Are campaign donors simply affluent individuals who happen to give to campaigns or are there differences between donors and the affluent in their policy views? To answer this question, we conducted surveys of verified 2018 midterm donors, affluent individuals, and the general population. Comparing co-partisans’ preferences reveals both parties’ donors have more ideologically extreme views on domestic policies than either the affluent or general public. In fact, on these issues the preferences of the affluent are rarely distinctive from those of the general public. On international issues, however, Democratic donors are more pro-internationalist than affluent and general public co-partisans while Republican donors are similar to affluent co-partisans. Proceeding to analyze distinctions among donor-types, we find some types have particularly divergent preferences, but significant differences from the affluent persist regardless of whether a contributor is in- versus out-of-state, small or large, or active in presidential elections.


Brandice Canes-Wrone is a professor in the political science department and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford. Her current research focuses on representation and accountability, including projects on elections, campaign finance, and populism. She also writes on the effects of political phenomena on economic outcomes, both in the US as well as comparatively in other nations.

During the course of her career Canes-Wrone has published numerous articles and books in the areas of political institutions, mass political behavior, and political economy. On political institutions, she has a longstanding interest in executive politics. Her book Who Leads Whom? Presidents, Policy, and Public (University of Chicago, 2006) was awarded the Richard E. Neustadt prize by the American Political Science Association for the best book on the US presidency that year. More recent scholarship on executive politics is investigating how patterns of populism across the globe relate to the institutional features of the office of the chief executive.

Other current research focuses on accountability and representation in the US context. She coedited Accountability Reconsidered: Voters, Interests, and Information in US Policymaking (Cambridge, forthcoming 2023) with Chuck Cameron, Sandy Gordon, and Greg Huber, and in this volume she and Michael Kistner examine how changes in the US local media are associated with developments in congressional electoral accountability. Additionally, she has a series of recent publications on campaign finance, including on the motivations of campaign donors (with Michael Barber and Sharece Thrower) and congressional members’ responsiveness to donors (with Kenneth Miller, and in separate work, Nathan Gibson).

Canes-Wrone has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has served on the editorial boards of numerous political science and political economy journals. She has also served on the boards of the American National Elections Studies, the Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse, and the Presidents and Executive Politics Section of the American Political Science Association, including as President of the Presidents and Executive Politics Section.

Prior to joining the Stanford faculty, Canes-Wrone was on the faculties of MIT, Northwestern, and Princeton. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Princeton and a PhD from Stanford.