Donation Dynamics: Do Critical Campaign Events Influence Contributions?

Seo-young Silvia Kim (California Institute of Technology)

Abstract: What events motivate individual campaign contributions? Using the 2016 campaign finance data from the Federal Election Commission as a daily time-series, I test the hypothesis that if presidential donors are either instrumental or momentum-driven, they will be responsive to events that reveal new information about candidate viability, such as early victories or unexpected upsets in primaries. In addition, I provide a smooth, de-noised estimate of the underlying campaign dynamics by candidate. For this purpose, I employ the sequential segmentation spline method to detect structural breaks while providing smooth estimates between the jumps. We find that on the national level, daily aggregates for any candidate is a smooth enough process to mask any particular event. Even when data is disaggregated by state, events expected to create shocks hardly ever do, such as the Iowa caucus or the New Hampshire primary. I provide preliminary interpretations of the exceptions, and also of the structural breaks at other unexpected, seemingly uneventful dates.

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