Partisan Differences in Nonpartisan Activity: The Case of Charitable Giving
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How do political identities shape seemingly non-political behaviors, such as consumption activity? This paper explores the extent to which political divisions impact apolitical behaviors, focusing on the case of voluntary donations to charitable organizations. Drawing on recent work showing partisans’ differing use of “conspicuous consumption,” we develop and test expectations as to how charitable activity may differ for Democrats and Republicans. Using three national surveys, including an original two-wave panel study, we find sizable differences in overall giving between partisans, with Republicans giving more to charity on average. We show that partisan differences in religiosity, and not differences in beliefs about government spending or desires to signal economic status, explain partisan gaps in giving. Our findings contribute to our understanding about the broader consequences of political fragmentation in the United States and provide further evidence for the social, as opposed to ideological, roots of political identity.
KeywordsPartisanship Polarization Charity United States
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