Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Manship School of Mass Communication

Document Type



The study of political donations has previously been limited to surveys of identified donors and analysis of reported giving data, and oftentimes limited to higher-dollar donors. A comprehensive review of the current political giving literature yields two distinct questions: first, what role do resources play in determining who gives, and second, what ultimately prompts people to donate to a political organization? I utilize secondary survey data in my first chapter to examine the role of resources and gender in political giving. This chapter provides insight to whether gender merely represents the availability of resources necessary for participation, or whether it is indicative of differing implicit motivations that drive giving. I use three original, partnered field experiments, two of which are fielded with a state-level political action committee, and one that is fielded with a national PAC, to examine which type of strategic appeal most effectively motivates political giving.

These chapters yield several distinctive findings. First, while resources ultimately predict who gives to political organizations, gender is marker not only of differing levels of resources but also of different intrinsic motivations for giving. Second, in line with practitioner best practices, explicitly asking supporters to donate does generate donations; however, non-solicitations ultimately drive more traffic to organizations’ websites. Added minor costs – or barriers – to giving do not seem to deter or depress the rate of donations. Finally, I find that when pitted directly against each other, appeals using temporal urgency to prompt giving outperform expressions of gratitude and policy-related anxiety induction. This indicates that we might not fully understanding of what costliness is, in terms of political giving and online political activity. These findings also shed light on the strategies that effectively motivate alternative forms of civic participation.



Committee Chair

Johnson, Pressley Martin