2016 USA Presidential Campaign Finance in Ohio (data till 11/20/2015)

by Gary



Presidential campaign finance data contains much valuable information, therefore, it always been on the center stage during any presidential election. On a high level, it tells us the demographic and geographic support for each party and candidate. The patterns of the donation flow also reflect the current status of the candidates in the race.

For this exploratory data analysis, I am examining the 2016 presidential campaign finance data from the Federal Election Commission. The data is up to date until November 20, 2015.

The reason of choosing data from Ohio in particular is because Ohio is often considered the “Swing State”, which means there is no historically state-wide consistent strong support to a particular party in presidential elections. Therefore, it provides us a more “neutral” view of the donations to each party and candidates in the 2016 presidential race.

In this analysis, I try to answer three questions: First, which party and candidates have garnered the most support in Ohio (reflected by the donations received)? Second, is there a difference in donations between the genders, if so, what are the patterns? Lastly, where do donations come from geographically? In particular, do big counties tend to donate large amount of donation both in aggregate and per capita?

By answering these questions, we can understand a bit more of the 2016 presidential elections, and possibly, the developments as we come near 2016 in Ohio.


Data Preparations

# Load the Data
oh = read.csv("/Users/garymu/Dropbox/Udacity/DAND/project4/OH.csv", 
              stringsAsFactors= F)
## 'data.frame':    9598 obs. of  18 variables:
##  $ cmte_id          : chr  "C00458844" "C00458844" "C00458844" "C00577130" ...
##  $ cand_id          : chr  "P60006723" "P60006723" "P60006723" "P60007168" ...
##  $ cand_nm          : chr  "Rubio, Marco" "Rubio, Marco" "Rubio, Marco" "Sanders, Bernard" ...
##  $ contbr_nm        : chr  "STROPKAY, ANNA T. MS." "STROPKAY, ANNA T. MS." "HOOVER, JERRY" "BRACKMAN, MATTHEW" ...
##  $ contbr_city      : chr  "SEVEN HILLS" "SEVEN HILLS" "DOVER" "COLUMBUS" ...
##  $ contbr_st        : chr  "OH" "OH" "OH" "OH" ...
##  $ contbr_zip       : int  441315955 441315955 446227695 432013514 430568049 440223963 452427345 433519313 432351371 432351371 ...
##  $ contbr_employer  : chr  "RETIRED" "RETIRED" "SELF-EMPLOYED" "ABBOTT NUTRITION" ...
##  $ contbr_occupation: chr  "RETIRED" "RETIRED" "OWNER" "DESIGNER" ...
##  $ contb_receipt_amt: num  14 14 250 100 50 100 50 100 100 100 ...
##  $ contb_receipt_dt : chr  "8-May-15" "18-May-15" "16-Apr-15" "23-Aug-15" ...
##  $ receipt_desc     : chr  "nan" "" "" "" ...
##  $ memo_cd          : chr  "X" "X" "" "" ...
##  $ form_tp          : chr  "SA18" "SA18" "SA17A" "SA17A" ...
##  $ file_num         : int  1029436 1029436 1029436 1029414 1029414 1029436 1029414 1029436 1029436 1029436 ...
##  $ tran_id          : chr  "SA18.749749.2.0615" "SA18.752863.2.0615" "SA17.793795" "VPF7BEZ5R79" ...
##  $ election_tp      : chr  "P2016" "P2016" "P2016" "P2016" ...

Summary of Data Set

## [1] 9541   27

The Ohio 2016 Presidential Campaign Finance from Federal Election Commission website has 9598 observations and 18 variables, each observation indicates a donation transaction.

After processing the data and adding additional variables to help with analysis, the new data set has 9 additional variables, and 57 observations were dropped. The reason of the observations is because some donation amount has negative value. While it may be human error (it’s impossible to give negative dollars), I filtered them out from the dataset for a cleaner view of the donations.

The additional variables are:
  1. cand_last: Candidate first name, parsed from cand_nm variable, for better plotting labeling
  2. cand_last: Candidate last name, parsed from cand_nm variable, for better plotting labeling
  3. contbr_first: Donor first name, parsed from contbr_nm variable, for predicting gender
  4. contbr_last: Donor last name, parsed from contbr_nm variable.
  5. party: candidate’s political party affiliation
  6. entity: donor entity, whether an individual or a company
  7. contbr_gender: donor’s gender, predicted by gender function from gender package
  8. latitude: donor’s latitude, derived from Ohio donor zip codes and data from zipcode package
  9. longitude: donor’s longitude, derived from Ohio donor zip codes and data from zipcode package

Parties, Candidates and Donations

total_donation = sum(oh$contb_receipt_amt)
## [1] 4422674

Until November 20, 2015, total donations made to presidential candidates in Ohio grossed about 4.42 million US dollars. Where do these dollars flow to?

On the first look, Republican party seems to take the majority share of the donor contribution: Republican candidates have almost 3.5 million donations in total, which is 3 times than that of the Democratic party, with only 892 thousand dollars in donation.

If we look merely at the aggregated donations, it seems the Republican party is leading the Democrats in terms of donor supports in Ohio; however, a closer look at the candidate level tells a different story.

More Republican Candidates in the race than Democrats

## Source: local data frame [2 x 4]
##        party money_received cand_num donation_per_cand
##        (chr)          (dbl)    (int)             (dbl)
## 1   democrat       892230.1        4          223057.5
## 2 republican      3530444.2       17          207673.2

It turns out the Democratic party has only 4 candidates, while Republican party has more than 4 times of the amount of candidates - 17 candidates in total. Therefore, the total amount of donations received from the Republican party could be skewed by the higher number of candidates in the race so far.

Looking at the donation received per candidate, we get a different view. Each Democratic candidate received on average 223 thousand dollars in donation, which is 7% more than the donation received on average per Republican candidate (207 thousand dollars).

However, this is still at an aggregate level, and does not necessarily reflect the donation variance between each candidate. We need to drill further down to individual candidate level for additional patterns in donations.

More than 90% of the donations are received by a few candidates

## Source: local data frame [21 x 5]
##         party cand_last money_received avg_donation_amt donor_num
##         (chr)     (chr)          (dbl)            (dbl)     (int)
## 1  republican  Christie         300.00         100.0000         3
## 2  republican    Pataki        1250.00         625.0000         2
## 3  republican      Webb        2500.00         357.1429         7
## 4  republican    Jindal        3000.00         600.0000         5
## 5  republican     Perry        3185.00         318.5000        10
## 6    democrat    Lessig        4012.77         182.3986        22
## 7  republican  Huckabee        4948.00         141.3714        35
## 8    democrat  O'Malley       10350.00        1478.5714         7
## 9  republican  Santorum       10598.46         365.4641        29
## 10 republican    Graham       16775.00         621.2963        27
## ..        ...       ...            ...              ...       ...

Looking at the donations received by each candidate, a couple things jumped out:

First, it’s very obvious that most of the total donations in Ohio are received by one candidate - John Kasich. This should not come as surprising as Kasich is the current Ohio State Governor since 2011, and he seems to be able to garner a majority of monetary support from local donors. In fact, of all the donations made in Ohio, almost 50% of them went to Kasich (which equates to 61% donation made to Republican party), and the remaining 50% is received by the rest of the 16 candidates.

Second, within each party, the donation is concentrated on only a few top front-runners. For Democratic party, Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are the two leading candidates, taking 98% of total Democratic donations in Ohio state, and of which, 85% goes towards Hilary.

For Republican party, Kasich has the majority of the donations in Ohio, and leading the rest of the Republican candidates by a wide margin. The other Republican front runners - Carson, Rubio, Cruz and Bush takes a total of 32% Republican donors’ donations, and the reamining 7% goes towards the rest of the 12 Republican runners.