Florida and the geography of political giving

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Following the painstaking process of geocoding years of individual campaign contributions to candidates in federal elections, analysts at the Sunlight Foundation and Azavea have made it possible to visualize where money is coming from, and to which parties it goes.

Released on Wednesday, the first product of these efforts is a series of county-by-county interactive maps showing the geographic concentrations of contributions.

For example, they calculated that just 10 counties out of more than 3,000 nationwide accounted for nearly one-third of all contributions made by individual donors to political campaigns and PACs.  The only Florida county to make this list is Palm Beach at No. 10.

But because these top 10 counties are also among the most dense in population, the researchers also looked at political contributions by county, per capita.  These maps tell a different story, but one that is also subject to some distortion.  For example, due to a few major donors who live in remote areas such as Teton County, Wyo., political activity may appear to be greater in these regions than it is in reality. 

In Florida, when adjusting for county population, Indian River takes the lead with an average contribution of $63.43 per person, followed by Collier County at $44.19 and Palm Beach at $38.58.  The political hotbeds of Broward and Dade ring in low at $9.58 and $15.71, respectively.  Residents of Leon County, home to the State Capitol, gave an average of $12.69 in 2012.

Next, looking at the difference in percentage share of individual contributions to major parties, Florida is pretty much red throughout, with the exception of Glades County by a slim margin.   

Interestingly, Hernando, Citrus, Marion and Lake Counties are the only to light up in Florida when it comes to third party giving.

A final map shows how the geography of political contributions has changed significantly from one election to the next, using historical data going back to 1990.

Contact Karen Cyphers at karen@cyphersgroup.com.