Political Participation by Wealthy Americans (WP-13-03)


IPR-WP-13-03 (Revised April 2013)

Fay Lomax Cook, Benjamin Page, and Rachel Moskowitz

Although we know that Americans with higher incomes tend to participate more actively in politics, little is known about the really wealthy.  Data from a special survey of the top 1 percent of U.S. wealth holders and from a general population survey indicate that wealthy Americans are far more active in politics than average citizens.  In most respects they are also substantially more active than the merely “affluent” people (with incomes of $150,000 and above)  found at the upper end of general population surveys.  The frequency with which wealthy Americans attend meetings, pay attention to politics, and volunteer for political organizations is about twice as high as the frequency among the merely affluent.  Many contribute large amounts of money to politics.  One-fifth reported “bundling” others’ contributions.  Many initiate contacts with public officials, especially their own and others’ Senators and Representatives. Implications for democratic policymaking are briefly discussed. 


Fay Lomax Cook, Professor of Human Development and Social Policy, and Faculty Fellow, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University
Benjamin Page, Gordon S. Fulcher Professor of Decision Making, and Faculty Associate, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University
Rachel Moskowitz, Doctoral Student in Political Science, and Graduate Research Assistant, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University

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