Political Behavior

, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 839–864 | Cite as

Partisan Differences in Nonpartisan Activity: The Case of Charitable Giving

  • Michele F. Margolis
  • Michael W. SancesEmail author
Original Paper


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.


Partisanship Polarization Charity United States 

Supplementary material

11109_2016_9382_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (200 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (pdf 199 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of MemphisMemphisUSA

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