Wednesday, November 16, 2016

How Much Did Each Vote Cost?

Without a doubt, 2016 will go down as one of the most unique and surprising elections in American history. With the votes now counted, we can start to ask the question, how much did each candidate pay for your vote?

(NOTE: the final financial reports won't be available until Jan. 31, 2017. As such, the figures for the 2016 election only represent what is known at this time, and the final amounts raised by each campaign will end up being higher. However, I don't foresee the proportion of cost-per-vote between candidates to vary much beyond what it already is.)

The billionaire won the election against a well entrenched establishment candidate, and both of them struggled to gain a few percentages over one another in scattered states while two lesser known candidates vied for the nation's top job as well. But before we look at the results of 2016, let's review the previous two election cycles.

In 2008, you had veteran politician (and military veteran) Republican Sen. John McCain go up against a relative new comer, Sen. Barack Obama. For the entire 2008 cycle, $1,681,000,000 was raised. The Democratic Party raised a little over $1 billion of that, while the Republican raised $606 million. In terms of the two nominees, Obama out-raised McCain, $748 million to $351 million.

Click for larger view.

This means that Obama spent $10.76 per vote and McCain spent $5.85 per vote. Overall, 32.5% of all funds came from donations of $200 or less. The top bracket of donations made up 22.2%.

The 2012 election was less expensive, with $1,325,000,000 raised. Once again, the Republican Party nominee was out-raised, $772 million to Romney's $450 million. The Libertarian and Green parties also raised millions. The Libertarian Party's candidate, Gary Johnson, raised $2.8 million and Jill Stein of the Green Party raised $1.2 million. Overall, 46.8% of all funds came from donations of $200 or less. The top bracket of donations made up 26%.

Click for larger view.

In terms of $ per vote: Obama spent $11.71/vote, Romney spent $7.38/vote, Johnson spent $2.19/vote, and Stein spent $2.55/vote.

This brings us to 2016.

2016 was the year of money, with both main candidates having a net worth of over $200 million for the first time in American history. This year's election was supposed to be the most expensive ever, with over $2 billion raised through direct campaign and party channels. The reality was a bit different. While there were countless millions (some say billions) worth of "free media" spent on Hillary and Trump (in terms of covering their full speeches, campaign stops etc.), the real figure will likely never be known. What is known is what the law requires. According to the FEC, $1.3 billion was raised by all candidates by the end of the October reporting quarter. (Remember, the total amounts won't be released until 2017)

Hillary Clinton raised $498 million, while billionaire Donald Trump raised $248 million (of that, $56 million came from Trump himself). Gary Johnson raised $11.2 million (the most for a 3rd party candidate since Ross Perot in 1992) and Jill Stein raised $3.5 million. Overall, 55.4% of all funds came from donations of $200 or less. The top bracket of donations made up 23%.

Click for larger view.

The cost-per-votes are: $7.97 for Clinton, $4.04 for Trump, $2.61 for Johnson, and $2.67 for Stein. 

I also want to look at the primaries. Clinton raised $328.6 million by the end of July while Bernie Sanders raised $236.5 million. Clinton received 16.9 million primary votes, Sanders 13.2 million. This equals $19.44/vote for Hillary and $17.91/vote for Sanders.

On the Republican side, Trump's main rival was Sen. Ted Cruz. By the end of July, Trump had raised $128 million and Cruz raised $92.8 million. Trump won slightly over 14 million votes for a cost-per-vote of $9.14, and Cruz had a cost of $11.98/vote with 7.8 million votes.

This election had a turnout rate of 53.6% which was the lowest voter turnout since the 2000 Bush/Gore election (which also resulted in the winner losing the popular vote). In terms of overall vote count, it's similar to the 2004 election of Bush/Kerry.

What does all of this mean? Simply spending huge sums of money is no guarantee of winning an election. I think it definitely goes a long way towards dispelling the notion that you can "buy" a place in the Oval Office.

--Jacob Bogle, Nov. 16, 2016

No comments:

Post a Comment