Big Business Backs Hillary: Small Bernie

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Big business, lawyers, and the financial sector are the largest campaign backers of Hillary Clinton. Collectively they represent 35.5 million dollars donated to her campaign, 38% of total itemized funds donated to the Clinton campaign in 2015.

Bernie Sanders on the other hand is largely backed by a diverse collection of individuals: engineers, health care workers, artists, self-employed, academics, as well as to a much smaller extent business executives. Collectively these seven top donor industries only add up to 3.8 million dollars or about 20% of the itemized funds donated to the Sanders campaign in 2015.

It is worth noting that these numbers underestimate the total funds donated to each campaign due to reporting laws which require only funds adding up to $200 to be reported individually. The different effect of the reporting law is dramatic for the two candidates. For Hillary Clinton, because the vast majority of her funds come from large donors she has to itemize 84% of the funds she receives.

Bernie Sanders on the other hand is largely backed by small money and therefore must only report approximately 26% of the funds donated to his campaign. The result of this disparity of reporting is that superficially it appears that Hillary Clinton is raising vastly more money, but in reality her big donors are pretty much being matched by Sanders numerous small donors.

See: Analysis: Clinton backed by Big Money: Sanders by Small

However, this article is not discussing the size of contributions but the sectors contributing to each candidate.
Figure 1: Proportion of itemized funds in each category.
In Figure 1, we can see that the Sanders’ coalition is composed of a wide variety of working class individuals as well as intellectuals and artists. Hillary Clinton’s coalition is composed much more narrowly of large business, law, and finance donors.

In order to do this analysis, I drew from the individualized 2015 year end data reported to the FEC by both campaigns. Within this data individuals report their personal occupation title. Because I wanted to look at just the sectors backing the candidates, I did not include in this analysis contributors who were unemployed, retired, or did not fit within any of these categories.

This represented a significant quantity of data with 30% of the individualized contributions for the Sanders campaign and 36% of the funds for the Clinton campaign either not categorized or missing. Likewise for the Sanders campaign 38% of funds came from the unemployed in contrast to only 19% for the Clinton campaign.

Those occupations failed to be classified into industries either because they did not seem relevant to the above categories or because they did not appear within the list of top 260 occupations donating to campaigns. The classification of different occupations into different industries was done someone subjectively as well, with a lot of personal judgements. For example, should “Public Relations Executive” be classified in the category “Public Relations” or “Business Executives”?

Due to the large proportion of contributions not classified and the difficulty of classifying some occupations I am not 100% confident that my analysis would be consistent if someone else were to do the same thing I did. That said, the differences between the backers of the Sanders campaign and the Clinton campaign seem pretty stark.

Thus I think it reasonable to conclude that Sanders seems to be largely supported by the working class and intellectuals in contrast to Clinton who seems to be supported by the business, legal, and finance wizards of the world.

Source Code

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