Many more thousands of people around the country voted with their money throughout 2019, and the same three candidates rose to the top.
USA TODAY teamed with RentHop, an algorithm-driven apartment search service, to drill down to the neighborhood level in 20 geographically diverse, large cities. Trump won 11 of the states where these cities are located in 2016 – including three that swung from supporting Barack Obama in 2012.
In total, this analysis encompasses the decisions of presidential campaign contributors from a combined population of nearly 30 million people. The contributions were reported by the candidates to the Federal Election Commission throughout 2019.
We also looked at Des Moines to see if the city’s contributions might align with the outcome of the Iowa Caucuses. The contributions and results were eerily close:
The 20 big cities we have selected are most of these states’ population centers and can heavily influence the direction of the states’ voting. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton won Illinois in 2016 with more than half of her votes coming from just Chicago and its nearby suburbs in Cook County.
Admittedly, individual donors may have less to say in this presidential election than ever before. Billionaires Tom Steyer and Mike Bloomberg are funding their campaigns with largely (Steyer) or entirely (Bloomberg) their personal fortunes, which took their fourth-quarter fundraising to a whole different level.
Also, Trump gained more individual donors in nine of the cities RentHop analyzed, but with as many as two dozen Democratic candidates during the previous year, Democrats’ donations and choices were split.
What the RentHop analysis found in each the 20 large cities’ campaign donations for the 2020 presidential election:
The Nevada Democratic Caucus
Nearly a third of Nevada’s population resides in Las Vegas – much of Clark County’s population. That gave the city a big say in the final outcome of the 2016 election: Hillary Clinton won Clark County by 10 percentage points but won the state by just 2 percentage points.
The Nevada Democratic caucus is just days away on Feb. 22, and if donor interest is any indication, it could give Joe Biden a chance to turn his fortunes around. Besides running second to Sanders, Biden raised more money in the southern half of the city than any other candidate.
Buttigieg had half (210) the donors Sanders did, but polling since the Iowa caucuses suggests that Buttigieg and Bloomberg have been the beneficiaries of Biden’s poor showing in Iowa and New Hampshire, according to RealClear politics. Bloomberg is not on the Nevada ballot.
In all eight cities where residents will vote March 3 as part of Super Tuesday, Sanders is among the top three candidates for individual donors. Fourteen states will participate in Super Tuesday this year.
That might not be surprising because Sanders’ fundraising success has rested on numerous small-donation supporters, but he has a commanding number of financial supporters in Denver, Los Angeles and San Jose, California.
Sanders’ lead was narrower in Charlotte, North Carolina, Memphis, Tennessee, and the two Texas cities. Buttigieg had the second-most donors in Dallas and Houston.
Whatever lead Sanders may have over his Democratic opponents won’t likely matter during the general election in North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. All three voted for Trump in 2016, and his lead in individual donors suggests his support is still strong.
Minnesota also votes on Super Tuesday, and should the vote follow donations from the Minneapolis area, Amy Klobuchar could have a commanding victory. Minneapolis’ Hennepin County helped Clinton win the almost completely red state in 2016.
The next test
One week after Super Tuesday, six more states hold primaries: Idaho, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, North Dakota and Washington.
From that diverse group, Kansas City and Seattle both voted for Clinton in 2016, but with vastly different outcomes statewide. Trump won Missouri handily, while Clinton trounced him in Washington.
What unites Kansas City and Seattle this cycle was a surge in Sanders’ donors during December.
Not surprisingly, Sanders appears to be resonating in the Rust Belt states such as Michigan where he also leapfrogged Trump in individual donors in December.
General election implications
Michigan swung to Trump in 2016 where he won by just 0.3 percentage points. Clinton won Detroit’s Wayne County by 25 percentage points, so the rise in support for Sanders in Detroit is unlikely a barometer for the state.
What may be telling, though, is the overwhelming number of unique donations that Trump received in Phoenix and Jacksonville.
In 2016, Trump beat Clinton by 3 percentage points in Phoenix’s Maricopa County – closely mirroring the margin for all for Arizona. The number of Trump contributions in Phoenix in 2019 dwarfed Sanders’ and Buttigieg’s.
Trump won Jacksonville’s Duval County by just over 1 percentage point – about the same margin he won Florida. Individual contributions in 2019 tell a much different story for 2020. Trump received more than five times the number of contributions of the next closest candidate.
Chicago and New York City’s boroughs play a large role in their state’s leanings. Clinton won New York City and Chicago’s Cook County by more than 50 percentage points and subsequently won both states by double digits.
Both Sanders and Buttigieg top the Democratic ticket in their respective regions, and Trump is a distant fourth in both cities.
The last of the primary season
If the field hasn’t been winnowed to a presumptive candidate by May, Buttigieg appears to have strong support in his home state’s primary on May 5 and in the Washington, D.C., primary on June 16.
Billings’ Democratic donors had aligned themselves largely with Montana Gov. Steve Bullock who left the race for the Democratic nomination in December.
About RentHop’s analysis
Renthop retrieved the campaign donations data from the FEC. The dataset, though, only includes individual receipts and has yet to be categorized and coded by the FEC as of Feb 10. The data is pulled directly from each committee’s raw, electronic reports and does not include paper filings. The city shape files were retrieved from the U.S. Census Bureau.
For unique donors, RentHop deduped by names, zip codes and committee names. They adopted five-digit zip codes for this report as not all candidates collect nine-digit ZIP codes. They then grouped the ZIP codes by their respective cities and further analyzed the data by each candidate. People who have changed their names or moved in between donations could artificially inflate the results.