In the last two decades the United States has seen a rise in political election spending. This spending includes expenses for all individual campaigns (presidential and congressional) as well as spending by political parties and independent interest groups that attempt to influence the election. This chart shows the total cost of the recent US elections by political party.
The 2020 election is projected to have the highest expenditures in history by a long shot. In fact, in 2020 Democrats are expected to outspend on their own what all parties collectively spent in the 2016 election ($8.3B vs $6.8B). The ~$14B spent by both parties in 2020 is also over double what the 2012 and 2016 elections spent.
Though spending does not necessarily correlate to popular votes or electoral college votes received, increased donations helps give candidates more options.
Total Cost Breakdown Of US Elections By Political Party
The main reason for the increase in spending is due to increased donations. This is coming from both small donors and the super wealthy. Small donors (<$200 donations) increased their share of the total donations from 15% to 22% in 2020. The wealthiest tend to contribute via massive amounts directly to Super PACs which attempt to influence the elections through advertising and other means. In addition, more women than ever in 2020 donated to various campaigns, increasing their participation from 37% to 44%.
The massive advantage of Democrats on the spending front is from a couple advantages. Both small donors and women are more likely to contribute to Democrat campaigns. In addition, two billionaires self funded their own campaigns in the Democrat primary (Steyer and Bloomberg). Both spent massive amounts of money (combined $1.3B) in their failed attempts at securing the nomination. Republicans historically have spent more via Super PACs, though this year Democrats also boasted higher spending on that category as well.
Along with the presidential race, congressional races have also spent the most in history as well. The nation as a whole was focused on specific races for control of the Senate and contributed accordingly. The South Carolina Senate race has seen a state record in funds spent. Both Harrison (D) and Graham (R) had over 87% of their total funds raised from outside the state.
With the massive increase in campaign spending in 2020 it’s difficult to predict if the trend will continue. Was this a mark of things to come, or will this election be an outlier? That question remains to be seen.
Source: Open Secrets