Saying that contributors are more interested in whether a candidate can win rather than if that candidate is a man or a woman, two researchers from UC Irvine and Boston College have concluded that perceptions of sex discrimination in political fund raising are false.
UCI's Carole Uhlaner and Boston College's Kay Lehman Schlozman explored the issue, as they put it, of whether "money, the mother's milk of politics, flows less to its daughters than its sons." Their findings, the result of a statistical study of 1980 congressional races, appeared in an article in Emory University's Journal of Politics.
"Donors behaved like bookmakers," the two women wrote in their analysis of fund-raising patterns. "What mattered was which horse would cross the finish line first, not whether it was a filly or a colt."
The key difference in a candidate's fund-raising ability is not a matter of gender, they concluded, but whether he or she is an incumbent and as such has a power base in seniority and committee chairmanships. Though women candidates failed to raise as much money as men--collecting an average of $128,418 compared to $153,445 for men--generally it was because the women were not incumbents, Uhlaner and Schlozman wrote.
Money, they concluded, flows to candidates who are already winners. It also flows "to women who look like winners." In their analysis, Uhlaner and Schlozman studied the campaign reports of 52 women and 764 men running for the House of Representatives in 1980, the year for which the most complete campaign data was available. Of those women, two were unopposed, four were involved in races against other women and 46 were running against men.
Males Led in Power Bases, Study Says
The average male incumbent raised $183,052, while women incumbents raised an average of $147,058. Accounting for the gap, Uhlaner and Schlozman pointed out that men held more committee chairs and had more seniority on the average than their female counterparts.
But women challengers raised slightly more on the average than their male counterparts--$109,663 for women compared to $101,771 for men. More of the women had held some other elective office, had run for Congress before and faced more "marginal opponents" than the men, Uhlaner and Schlozman found.
Underscoring this thesis were primary victories Tuesday in six states by women who now could go on to win gubernatorial and Senate seats. And in nearly every case, the winning female candidate kept pace in fund raising with her male opponent, gathering more than $1 million each, the candidates and spokeswomen from national women's political groups said.
Some of those candidates and their advisers were asked to comment last week on the Uhlaner-Schlozman thesis, and they said they generally agreed with it.
Celinda Lake, political director for the Women's Campaign Fund, a Washington political action committee, said her group's research also showed that women challengers could raise as much as men.
"We feel the primary problem is that women are running as challengers and men are running as incumbents, and incumbents are dramatically out-raising challengers," Lake said. She added that a woman candidate typically raises two-thirds of the amount raised by a male candidate.
Still, if many women candidates or their campaign consultants agreed with the Uhlaner-Schlozman thesis, several offered qualifiers:
- Though women candidates can raise as much as men, they often use different networks, relying more at first on women's groups than the business community, according to Lucie cLehmann, finance director for Rep. Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland). Mikulski, a social worker and popular party leader, beat a male challenger Tuesday to win the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate. She faces another woman, White House aide Linda Chavez, in November.
Mikulski's $1-million primary campaign was helped by $100,000 in contributions from a women's fund-raising network called EMILY and another $100,000 from activists and entertainment figures in Hollywood, Lehmann said.
- Women candidates generally raise money in smaller increments than their male counterparts, women strategists said. Mikulski had a 20-point lead in the polls for six months, said Irene Natividad, chairwoman of the National Woman Political Caucus. She added: "Any male opponent would have had more (money than Mikulski had) and here we were nickel-ing and dime-ing all over the country" to raise money for her.
One woman candidate strongly disagreed with the Uhlaner-Schlozman thesis that women can raise as much as men.
Norma Paulus, the Oregon secretary of state who is running for governor, said: "I'm leading in the polls. I've raised $1.2 million, and he (former Portland Mayor Neil Goldschmidt) has raised twice as much. I think that for the top political positions, there are still people who believe a woman shouldn't be running."
Paulus said she believes that she has had to work harder than Goldschmidt to raise her money and has become more aggressive in the process.
"In the beginning," she said, "I didn't ask anybody, and now I'm as brazen as can be. Anybody that's got two shekels to rub together, I ask."
Uhlaner and Schlozman said they could understand the complaint of a candidate like Paulus. But their data--compiled from objective sources, largely from Federal Election Commission reports--showed that a candidate's power bases, not his or her sex, were the issue.
Said Schlozman: "If you're a woman candidate and you see yourself having trouble raising money, it's reasonable to think you are having trouble raising money because of discrimination. You don't see that a male candidate with the same characteristics is having the same troubles."