Oct 25, 2023 - News

Ohio's political gender gap extends to donations

Share of 2022 campaign funds donated by women
Image credit: Reproduced from Rutgers; Note: States with top-two or top-four primary systems were also excluded; Map: Axios Visuals

Women contributed 30% of the donations to Ohio's statewide and legislative campaigns in last year's general elections, according to a new report from Rutgers' Center for American Women and Politics.

Why it matters: Women are not just underrepresented in the halls of power, they're underrepresented as the political donors that fuel those halls, Axios' Emma Hurt writes.

The big picture: Nationwide, women donors made up between 29-33% of contributions to general election candidates at statewide and state legislative levels between 2019 and 2022, per data from campaign finance tracker OpenSecrets.

Meanwhile, one-third of state legislators in the U.S. are women, while eight of the 28 governors who ran for re-election last year were women.

Between the lines: The underrepresentation of female politicians and donors is entwined, Kira Sanbonmatsu, a Rutgers political science professor and the report's lead researcher, told Axios.

  • It's a cycle that puts women at a disadvantage female donors on both sides of the aisle disproportionately support women candidates, but the number of women running for office is significantly lower than the number of men.
  • Incumbents, most of them men, tend to raise more money than challengers and well-funded candidates are most likely to win on election day.

Zoom in: In Ohio last year, 49% of campaign contributors were women, but their money made up a much smaller percentage of the total amount donated.

  • While 50.6% of the population is female, only 29% of state legislators are women.
  • In 220 years of the state's legislative history, the record high is 31% of seats held by women, during the 2021-22 term.
  • Men hold all six statewide executive office positions, both U.S. Senate seats and a majority of Ohio Supreme Court seats.

Of note: That trend is expected to continue — all four major candidates for next year's U.S. Senate race are men.

The last word: There's a "need for some new strategies and new mobilization ideas" to rectify the "donor gap," Sanbonmatsu said.

  • "Women are voting. They're interested in politics. They're engaged. They maybe haven't been recruited yet in this capacity."
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