Archive for Thursday, March 27, 2008

Figures reveal charitable conservatives

March 27, 2008


— Residents of Austin, Texas, home of the state's government and flagship university, have very refined social consciences, if they do say so themselves, and they do say so, speaking via bumper stickers. Don R. Willett, a justice of the state Supreme Court, has commuted behind bumpers proclaiming "Better a Bleeding Heart Than None at All," "Practice Random Acts of Kindness and Senseless Beauty," "The Moral High Ground Is Built on Compassion," "Arms Are For Hugging," "Will Work (When the Jobs Come Back From India)," "Jesus Is a Liberal," "God Wants Spiritual Fruits, Not Religious Nuts," "The Road to Hell Is Paved With Republicans," "Republicans Are People Too - Mean, Selfish, Greedy People" and so on. But Willett thinks Austin subverts a stereotype: "The belief that liberals care more about the poor may scratch a partisan or ideological itch, but the facts are hostile witnesses."

Sixteen months ago, Arthur C. Brooks, a professor at Syracuse University, published "Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism." The surprise is that liberals are markedly less charitable than conservatives.

If many conservatives are liberals who have been mugged by reality, Brooks, a registered independent, is, as a reviewer of his book said, a social scientist who has been mugged by data. They include these findings:

¢ Although liberal families' incomes average 6 percent higher than those of conservative families, conservative-headed households give, on average, 30 percent more to charity than the average liberal-headed household ($1,600 per year vs. $1,227).

¢ Conservatives also donate more time and give more blood.

¢ Residents of the states that voted for John Kerry in 2004 gave smaller percentages of their incomes to charity than did residents of states that voted for George Bush.

¢ Bush carried 24 of the 25 states where charitable giving was above average.

¢ In the 10 reddest states, in which Bush got more than 60 percent majorities, the average percentage of personal income donated to charity was 3.5. Residents of the bluest states, which gave Bush less than 40 percent, donated just 1.9 percent.

¢ People who reject the idea that "government has a responsibility to reduce income inequality" give an average of four times more than people who accept that proposition.

Brooks demonstrates a correlation between charitable behavior and "the values that lie beneath" liberal and conservative labels. Two influences on charitable behavior are religion and attitudes about the proper role of government.

The single biggest predictor of someone's altruism, Willett says, is religion. It increasingly correlates with conservative political affiliations because, as Brooks' book says, "the percentage of self-described Democrats who say they have 'no religion' has more than quadrupled since the early 1970s." America is largely divided between religious givers and secular nongivers, and the former are disproportionately conservative. One demonstration that religion is a strong determinant of charitable behavior is that the least charitable cohort is a relatively small one - secular conservatives.

Reviewing Brooks' book in the Texas Review of Law & Politics, Justice Willett notes that Austin - it voted 56 percent for Kerry while he was getting just 38 percent statewide - is ranked by The Chronicle of Philanthropy as 48th out of America's 50 largest cities in per capita charitable giving. Brooks' data about disparities between liberals' and conservatives' charitable giving fit these facts: Democrats represent a majority of the wealthiest congressional districts, and half of America's richest households live in states where both senators are Democrats.

While conservatives tend to regard giving as a personal rather than governmental responsibility, some liberals consider private charity a retrograde phenomenon - a poor palliative for an inadequate welfare state, and a distraction from achieving adequacy by force, by increasing taxes. Ralph Nader, running for president in 2000, said: "A society that has more justice is a society that needs less charity." Brooks, however, warns: "If support for a policy that does not exist ... substitutes for private charity, the needy are left worse off than before. It is one of the bitterest ironies of liberal politics today that political opinions are apparently taking the place of help for others."

In 2000, brows were furrowed in perplexity because Vice President Al Gore's charitable contributions, as a percentage of his income, were below the national average: He gave 0.2 percent of his family income, one-seventh of the average for donating households. But Gore "gave at the office." By using public office to give other people's money to government programs, he was being charitable, as liberals increasingly, and conveniently, understand that word.

George Will is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


SettingTheRecordStraight 10 years ago

Great point, Mr. Will. One reason for the disparity is because liberals believe it is the responsibility of the collective, not the individual, to support charity. Therefore, liberals are more likely to see their charity flowing through our nation's wasteful government bureaucracy and the social programs it funds, rather than through individual outreach to those most in need.

SettingTheRecordStraight 10 years ago

max1, Am I missing the tie to charity in your post?

Defender, Can you give us more than "complete moron"?

jonas 10 years ago

I do notice that this just gives a dollar total, and I wonder if they just compute total dollars given, or if time given in voluntary functions to such things as soup kitchens, etc, are tabulated within the results.

Either way, there's no surprise here. I think that there is a simple factor that explains both the higher levels of giving and the fact that the more giving states voted for Bush.


If we are allowing ourselves to be stereotypical (and it's clear that we are) conservatives are more likely to be regular church-goers and participants in the religious community, which organizes and directs innumerable charitable activities. People show up, give their checks, and it's good. Minus church, I don't think there is a single other entity on that scale that does the same thing. So non-Churchgoing people have a less convenient path to charitable giving, which suggests that they would give less in general.

So, I guess another question is why the godless liberals are just as far behind as they are.

cato_the_elder 10 years ago

While there have been notable examples of individuals of liberal political persuasion in Lawrence who have been very generous, caring people (Petey Cerf and Tensie Oldfather immediately come to mind), in my experience in discussing this subject on many occasions with politically liberal friends, they invariably say that it's the government's duty to look after the poor, not theirs. Of course, since they are always complaining that the government isn't doing enough, one might question the logic of their position, but logic has never been their strong suit. In fairness, many doctrinaire liberals are still wed to the well-known Rooseveltian distaste for "noblesse oblige" (as articulated eloquently by Ralph Bellamy in "Sunrise at Campobello"), and do not like to make too many charitable contributions because they want to see the government do it instead and think that they are slackers to the cause if they give too much. On balance, I believe that Brooks' thesis is absolutely correct and objectively supportable by statistics, which would include the just-released information from Senator Obama's tax returns showing the very limited charitable contributions that he has chosen to make even though his income has clearly qualified him as a "rich" taxpayer under any of the definitions routinely propounded by many of his fellow Democrats.

drake 10 years ago

Jonas- from the article: "Conservatives also donate more time and give more blood."

standuporget 10 years ago

Jonas, your superior education in showing. From the article- Conservatives also donate more time and give more blood. Solomon says northerners (liberals?) like blacks as a race, but not as individuals. You don't want Beatrice to see that The truth hurts although if you read their comments they don't like us as a race if there is more than one of us in the same area or club.

BigPrune 10 years ago

The article's message: Liberals are hypocrites.

If you've lived in Lawrence long enough, surely you'd know this as true.

jonas 10 years ago

Guess I scanned over that bullet-point. Doesn't change my original point in the slightest, though it does answer the question, so I guess thanks for bringing it to my attention.

So, do you have anything to say about my real point, or are you just going to nip at my heels on peripheral issues?

drake 10 years ago

So Jonas, do you really believe that the only reason conservatives give more is that it is more convenient for them? Really?

drake 10 years ago

From an article by John Stossel-

"ABC's "20/20" went to Sioux Falls, S.D., and San Francisco. We asked the Salvation Army to set up buckets at their busiest locations in both cities. Which bucket would get more money?

And what happened in our little test? Well, even though people in Sioux Falls make, on average, half as much money as people in San Francisco, and even though the San Francisco location was much busier - three times as many people were within reach of the bucket - by the end of the second day, the Sioux Falls bucket held twice as much money."

jonas 10 years ago

drake (Anonymous) says:

"So Jonas, do you really believe that the only reason conservatives give more is that it is more convenient for them? Really?"

No, I'm suggesting that More conservatives would give due to convenience. Are you really going to argue the point that convenience breeds more of a particular action or behavior? Really?

All of these figures are averages. The quickest way to lower an average is to have a large number of zeros, so to speak. What I read from these figures, then, is more individuals from one side contributing than the other, not necessarily a greater amount of per-individual contribution.

jonas 10 years ago

Drake: Without going too far against an article that's conclusions more or less match my own, if we were to calculate the total number of buckets on the street held by people asking for money, do you think San Fransisco or Sioux Falls, SD, would have a greater total number?

Bryan Moore 10 years ago

An artical written by (noted conservitive pundent) George Will about a book written by a man who is a Visiting Scholar at (the conservitive think tank) The American Enterprise Institute and a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal editorial page. Now why would I think the the facts may be tilted a little? If this piece was written by James Carvil about a report done by a scholar at the(liberal) Economic Policy Institute would conservitives then accept that phone surveys were a conclusive way to determine facts?

Bryan Moore 10 years ago


You are exactly right about religion being the biggest determining factor in giving and Mr Brooks website even say's religious Liberals give more than secular Conservatives. A case could be made for church people being more charitable (but you again have to accept that everyone is being truthfull in their answers to the surveys) but you also would need to take out donations to the church as a donation to "help the needy" when by the websites (and supporting links) stats up 90% goes to upkeep and staffing of the church itself.

Godot 10 years ago

When liberals see a cause they think needs to be corrected, they just form a 501(c)(3), collect donations, pay themselves handsomely from those donations for being the administrators, and then give the remaining 3 or 5 per cent to the needy.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 10 years ago

Yes, if church donations are included, then yes conservatives give more. But I wouldn't always count that as charity. I give to a lot of charities, but belong to no church, so may give less than a religious conservative. I take that back. I did donate some money to my brother's church a couple of years ago, because the minister and the members helped him die of cancer with dignity, unlike the local cancer group. But how are charitable donations calculated? With their tax deductions? We give to charities, then forget to make the deduction, unless we paid by check. Maybe conservatives are just better record keepers.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 10 years ago

This cancer group was in Ottawa, not Lawrence, by the way. They told everyone that my brother didn't have cancer. He just wanted freebies. What a surprise when he died 6 months later. I won't give to that group, but I will to the Lawrence group.

George_Braziller 10 years ago

Obviously you have never worked for a not-for-profit. Being in administration of a not-for-profit I can guarantee you that we are not paid "handsomely." I'd make more working as a letter carrier or riding on the back of a garbage truck.

"Godot (Anonymous) says: When liberals see a cause they think needs to be corrected, they just form a 501(c)(3), collect donations, pay themselves handsomely from those donations for being the administrators, and then give the remaining 3 or 5 per cent to the needy."

Bryan Moore 10 years ago

malcolm_x_obama (Anonymous) says:

arizonajh, If the Christians can count their church donations as charitable gifts. Gifts given to their religion. Then why can't godless liberals count their taxes as donations to their religion, the state?

I'm sorry your logic is escaping me. All I'm saying is that if I give 100 dollars to a church OR a liberal think tank and they take it and spend 90% on their day to day operations and 10% on a charity how is that donating 100 dollars to the charity? To me that's donating 10 dollars to the charity and 90 dollars supporting people I agree with, who aren't needy . On the other hand if you are saying that liberals are supportive of the laws and doctrines (including taxes) of this nation as conservitives are to thier laws and doctrines of the church then that pretty much goes against the "liberals hate America" theme that conservitives push so hard. If you don't believe in this country and it's tax system then do what I've heard so many conservitive posters tell liberals to do when they don't agree with Bush "go find another country"! Now since you're an expert on other peoples beliefs a "godless conservitives" religion is what? What is a "god fearing liberals" religion? Not to put words in your mouth but somehow I get the feeling your equation goes something like Christain = conservitive = American patriot > Secularist = liberal = islamofacist/communist traitor.

jonas 10 years ago

Oh, c'mon beobachter, let's be charitable.

Bryan Moore 10 years ago

Why do you nutcases call it an illegal "war" then turn around and say Bush never declared war and proceed to prop up your propaganda?"

I think that IS thier point. If war was not declared by an act of congress than it is not "legal". I'm not saying I agree since the congress almost unanimously backed Bush and his actions and gave him the OK to do what HE felt was prudent at the time, but I see the decenting CITIZENS point. By a technical reading of the the law in a vacuum it is an illeagal war (same could be said of Vietnam, Korea, Nicaragua). My take is you can't hand over your responsibilty to decide and them blame the one you told to make the decision when things don't turn out the way you wanted. I also feel that calling people names (hypocrite, idiot, nutcase) doesn't further the discussion, but some aren't on here to further there disscussion but to blast the other side for not seeing things exactly as they do, because there is no way they good be wrong about anything.

"I'll add that to my volumes of liberal fascists' comments asking for and condoning censorship "

Add what a question of why people are angry? Is that really censorship? And please tell me how fascist applies to liberals any more than conservitives. From Oxford Dictionary; ¢ noun 1 an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government. 2 extreme right-wing, authoritarian, or intolerant views or practice

From Cambridge Dictionary noun [U] a political system based on a very powerful leader, state control and extreme pride in country and race, and in which political opposition is not allowed

Maybe I'm missing something.

ndmoderate 10 years ago

"I'm surprised LJW does not eliminate those that lash out in an uncontrollable rage and traumatize other well meaning reader forum commentators that are here to discuss the provocative issues of the day in a constructive manner."

Like they did to you, R_T?

Oops! I meant....R_P (snort)

SettingTheRecordStraight 10 years ago

Watch out, Red_Peters. Defender will turn you in to the site administrator in an effort to get you censored. He's threatened it multiple times to multiple posters on this site. It's his immature way of trying to stifle the thought and speech that he doesn't agree with.

georgeofwesternkansas 10 years ago

Defendrrr is consistant. I have never seen him post without calling someone stupid or idiot. My lord what a long hard life that must be.

toefungus 10 years ago

Liberal with their opinions and other people's money, but not their own. I guess I always knew that.

toefungus 10 years ago

Godot, you described the United Way perfectly!

jonas 10 years ago

You could cut and paste a number of responses here today and have practically a dictionary definition of Confirmation Bias.

a_flock_of_jayhawks 9 years, 12 months ago

dorothyhr says..."We give to charities, then forget to make the deduction, unless we paid by check. Maybe conservatives are just better record keepers."Or just especially zealous in their desire to report the donations so they can write them off of (reduce) their taxes. Can't blame 'em, though, it's part of the tax law and it is there precisely to encourage donations.As far as religion goes, may of them probably feel guilted into giving at their church.

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