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."

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Columbus.

More Columbus stories