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Who Controls the Purse Strings? A Longitudinal Study of Gender and Donations in Canadian Politics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 November 2020

Erin Tolley
University of Toronto
Randy Besco
University of Toronto
Semra Sevi
Université de Montréal


Gender gaps in voter turnout and electoral representation have narrowed, but other forms of gender inequality remain. We examine gendered differences in donations: who donates and to whom? Donations furnish campaigns with necessary resources, provide voters with cues about candidate viability, and influence which issues politicians prioritize. We exploit an administrative data set to analyze donations to Canadian parties and candidates over a 25-year period. We use an automated classifier to estimate donor gender and then link these data to candidate and party characteristics. Importantly, and in contrast to null effects from research on gender affinity voting, we find women are more likely to donate to women candidates, but women donate less often and in smaller amounts than men. The lack of formal gendered donor networks and the reliance on more informal, male-dominated local connections may influence women donors’ behavior. Change over a quarter century has been modest, and large gender gaps persist.

Research Article
Copyright © The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of The Women and Politics Research Section of the American Political Science Association.

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This research was supported by an Insight Development Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (Grant no. 430-2016-00650). Research assistance was provided by Sheeriza Azeez and Anna Johnson. A draft of this article was presented at the 2019 meeting of the Canadian Political Science Association. We are grateful for suggestions we received from conference participants and from the journal's anonymous reviewers.



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