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How do politician funding, characteristics and behaviour relate?

Money is necessary to finance the electoral campaigns of politicians who run for public office. It thus plays an important role in many democracies. However, this role of money in the political process has the potential to affect how democratic institutions work, and it could ultimately undermine them. Election outcomes, the composition of elected bodies, and the activities of the elected determine the extent of descriptive and, ultimately, substantive representation of various groups in society as well as local communities. Candidate selection and election campaigns may impact the polarization in society and thus have immediate effects on the democratic discourse in local communities and society as a whole. These concerns are particularly relevant and timely considering the recent surge in populism across even established democracies. In the context of these issues and related challenges facing societies today, it is crucial to enhance our understanding of the role money plays in the processes that lead to outcomes with such profound implications.

This exploratory analysis is expected to inform about patterns in the association between politician characteristics, fundraising outcomes, donor characteristics, campaign spending, electoral success, and politicians’ behaviour in the United States Congress.

We aim to investigate the role of money in determining political outcomes through its interaction with political selection. We expect the data collection and initial analysis to provide us with the means to address intermediate questions such as:

  • What characteristics do candidates for office have?
  • What candidates’ characteristics are associated with successful fundraising?
  • Who donates to candidates (e.g., small donors, corporations, special interest groups)?
  • Which candidates, with what characteristics, and what composition of funding and spending are successful electorally (i.e., become members of Congress)?
  • Does the nature of the race (e.g., the chamber; being an incumbent, challenging an incumbent, or running for an open seat) play any role?
  • What variation in characteristics and funding composition exists among members of the United States Congress?
  • Is this variation associated with measures of effort (e.g., bill co-sponsorship), behavior (e.g., constituency services, outside activity, lobbying after leaving Congress), or policy leanings (e.g., roll call votes, ideology scores)?

Answers to these questions can help enhance our understanding of the role money plays in the political process. They will help assess what concerns around the role of money in politics should be taken particularly seriously, and inform both public and policy debate around potential reforms to tackle them.

This project will help enhance the understanding of the role money plays in the political process among both the general public and policy makers. It will help inform both public and policy debate around concerns about the role of money in politics and potential reforms to tackle them.

Meet the Principal Investigator(s) for the project

Dr Matteo Pazzona
Dr Matteo Pazzona - Personal Website:
Dr Jan Auerbach
Dr Jan Auerbach -

Partnering with confidence

Organisations interested in our research can partner with us with confidence backed by an external and independent benchmark: The Knowledge Exchange Framework. Read more.

Project last modified 09/01/2024