Who's More Charitable - Liberals or Conservatives?
    By Michael White | December 21st 2008 07:58 PM | 78 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    To be honest, I don't really care about the answer to this question. But read this Kristof NY Times column, and see if you're convinced of the answer. It's time to practice your critical thinking skills - questions you should ask about the claims presented in this column are exactly the sorts of questions you should ask when you read a press report about any statistics-based study, especially medical research.

    Here is the basic result Kristof is talking about:

    Arthur Brooks, the author of a book on donors to charity, “Who Really Cares,” cites data that households headed by conservatives give 30 percent more to charity than households headed by liberals. A study by Google found an even greater disproportion: average annual contributions reported by conservatives were almost double those of liberals.

    Rather than taking that at face value, several questions should immediately pop into your mind:

    1. Is this because more conservatives go to church, and give moeny to their church? For example, Mormons (who tend to be conservative), give 10% of their income to one of the wealthiest churches on the face of the planet, and one which does considerably less humanitarian work around than many churches (liberal and conservative) with much less wealth. Most of us wouldn't count everything you give to your church as "giving to charity," so you should ask yourself if the studies Kristof talks about take church giving into account.

    And in fact, Kristof notes that "According to Google’s figures, if donations to all religious organizations are excluded, liberals give slightly more to charity than conservatives do."

    But maybe that's because conservatives are already giving a big chunk of change to their church (which may really go to substantial charitable work, and not just to the general operating expenses of the church), so there is less money left over to give to non-religious charities. Thus excluding "donations to all religious organizations" may not be a fair comparison either.

    2. Are conservatives richer, and thus able to give more to charity? Kristof notes that "measuring by the percentage of income given, conservatives are more generous than liberals even to secular causes," but we're given no information on how giving relates to wealth. When I'm spending 80% of my income on basics like food, housing, and transportation, I have less money to give as a percentage of my income. If I only spend 30% on the basics, I'm free to give a larger chunk to charity.

    3. How much is related to say, issues of urban vs. rural environments, instead of liberal/conservative? One claim is "People in red states are considerably more likely to volunteer for good causes, and conservatives give blood more often." Is that because there are more volunteer opportunities in smaller towns than in big cities? I grew up outside of the fairly small city of Ithaca, NY. I volunteered for the local fire department there, something I could never do now in St. Louis because the fire department is all professional.

    There are obviously more questions to ask, and it's not clear at all, at least from the newspaper story, what we should really believe. It may very well be that, once you control for all of the confounding factors, liberals really are stingier. At least as Americans we're giving 11 times more of our GNP to charity than the French, as Kristof notes.

    But wait - the French pay a lot more in taxes to provide many services which are provided by charities in the US. So who really is more generous?

    I'm not taking a stand on what the right answer is to any of these comparisons.  The lesson here is, don't just believe the headline for any study. Learn to ask the right questions.



    I see these kinds of studies all the time and they all say the same thing; conservatives give more but they don't say why.   

    I have no issue with that until people try to frame it for their mode of thought - something like 'conservatives give more to charity because liberals think government is doing things or should do them.'    There's no statistical basis for motivation, after all, but we can understand demographics.

    It probably isn't a money issue since there are just as many poor conservatives as poor liberals, given voting stats.   At the top end there are just as many rich liberals as conservatives.  Obviously anyone who has more money will be more  able to give money than poor people - and charitable donations are tax write off.

    If liberals go to church less, and they do, then that donation may be a knock on their numbers.   But that's a data point.  Charity is charity.  A church isn't less charitable than Greenpeace. 

    In addition to your 3, I might add ...

    4.  I am not sure I can back this up with a study but my perception is that liberal people tend to donate more time.   There is no accounting in these studies for hours spent doing charitable work.  

    You mention that the Mormon Church is less charitable than many other churches. In fact, you, NOT Mr. Brooks seem to be making some assumptions that are not necessarily true. The Mormon church does donate to specific charities, however, they work in a different way. First, the tithing money that is taken in is used to pay for all church expenses. Prior to 1991, Mormons were also voluntarily assessed a local budget payment that was used to pay for local expenses in each congregation. This was removed in 1991 and the members were asked to be faithful in paying "tithes and offerings." Offerings are above the 10% that they pay for tithing. There are different types. One offering is the "Perpetual Education Fund." This is a fund that pays for higher education for those in third world countries who would never be given access to that opportunity under any other circumstances. It is called "perpetual" because those who receive the funds are asked to do what they can to pay it back when they are able. Of course, this is not always possible, hence the donations from the members of the church who live in more affluent countries. Other offerings are for the church's missionary fund, which pays for the missions of those who could not otherwise go. And lastly, the church's fast offering. Once a month, usually on the first Sunday, the members of the church go without food for two meals and are asked to donate at least the cost of those meals to the poor through the church's fast offering funds. The Mormon church has the largest welfare system of any private organization in the world. They employ those who are developmentally disabled, those who have lost work, those unable to work are provided with food, shelter and coverage of medical bills. The list goes on, but I think you get the picture. Your statement says that the church is one of the richest churches in the world. That is true from the standpoint that the members are generous in their tithes and offerings, however, your characterization of the church as rich belies either an ignorance of the truth or an absence of the truth altogether. The leaders of the church, the local Bishops, stake presidents, priesthood leaders, Sunday School teachers....none of them receive one dime from the church for their services. The clergy is entirely unpaid and the calling to these positions literally means adding a full time job on top of the full time job that they already hold for supporting their family. The difference is, they receive nothing in payment of their services. You imply through your statements that there is some type of malfeasance. The members of the church respond quickly to calls for money, food, clothing, shelter or anything else that is asked for. They also, overwhelmingly, are the preponderance of volunteers in areas of disaster compared to any other single church or religion. The members are taught to instantly respond when their leaders call for work parties, money or clothing or food donations. Your contention that the church does nothing is completely specious. The church has massive stocks of food, clothing, cooking and cleaning essentials, hygiene packs that are stored in vast warehouses around the world. Within 24-72 hours, depending on the country and the weather, they can have aircraft on the ground delivering hundreds of tons of these supplies to the displaced, regardless of their religious affiliation. They have enormous farms that grow specific types of food, factories and canning plants that process food and clothing that all are used to provide more food, jobs, clothing and essentials to families that have no other resources throughout the world. So, when you make these types of accusations, you might want to at least do five minutes of homework. The church does not need to donate vast sums to charity organizations. It has the largest, most efficient, interconnected welfare system of any christian church. So far as your other contentions that the reports about liberals not being charitable in comparison to conservatives, you can dismiss facts all you want, but the sad fact is that liberals believe that their desire to take money away from one group and give it to another group is the mark of their charity. Personally and professionally, I have never witnessed much "on the ground" charity from liberals at all, only a lot of talk about forcing those who "have too much" to give to those who "have nothing," with one exception. The liberals that I know that are part of a religious organization are some of the kindest, most generous people I have ever met. However, they are only fiscally liberal. Their morals do not align them with those who are socially liberal as well. So what is the common link? Whether they are Christian, Jew or Muslim, those who believe in a higher power give more of their OWN income, NOT the incomes of others. You, quite obviously, are one of those of the latter group. You remind me of a bumper sticker that I saw once in Iowa City, Iowa. It said, "Just vote's so much easier than thinking."

    You can spare me the lecture. I grew up Mormon - I know how all that business works, with budget contributions, fast offerings, tithing, etc.
    Your extremely narrow, parochial attitude towards (and utter ignorance of the views of) people with different views towards your own is unfortunately all too common in Mormon culture, and is one of the reasons I resigned my membership.
    Michael, I'm sorry for your bitterness. Parochial? Well, my children do attend Catholic school, so maybe that accusation applies. By the way, when someone disagrees with you, it doesn't mean that they are ignorant of your views; It's possible they just don't agree, not that they are uneducated. Here's a challenge...try a discussion without condemnation and name calling that's based on facts. I stated the facts about the church's involvement in the world. If you believe that any of what I said is untrue, then gather your facts and present them, sans denigratory descriptors. Your personal issues with the church notwithstanding, if you believe that the Mormon church is an example of people who are heartless, cruel and uncaring of the rest of the world, and an exemplar of hordes of conservatives that do not contribute, then present the evidence.

    Gerhard Adam
    ...those who believe in a higher power give more of their OWN income, NOT the incomes of others.
    Now that's any interesting spin on things.  Regardless of what you want to call it, tithing is essentially taxation.  So when the church spends your money that it's your OWN income, but when the government does the same thing then it's "the income of others".
    Mundus vult decipi
    Nicely put, Gerhard.
    the problem with that thinking is government taxation is not voluntary. you choose to go to church, no one makes you go.

    Gerhard Adam
    Going to church may be voluntary, but the chuch's position on tithing is unambiguous, since there is an expectation. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    "Expectation" is not Force. Stop grasping at straws and admit you made a terrible analogy.

    I beg to differ. Force is nothing but an expectation coupled with specific motivators. Tell me: to a true believer, which is a greater threat--the threat of jail if you pay no taxes, or the threat of Hell if you pay no tithing? Especially because the government may miss you, you can run away, and there are opt-out options (in some cases). God sees all and will punish all. Right?

    As a Christian we're commanded to tithe 10%. My husband & I do, & give gifts on top of that... we sponsor a child in Guatemala. We've never wanted for anything, and I personally believe that's because we've been faithful, & we've been greatly blessed. I didn't always tithe when I was single, even though I had the money & things weren't going so great for me. It's ok if you disagree, but that's my personal experience.
    By the way, nowhere in the Bible does it say that if you don't tithe, you go to Hell. You may not receive a full reward for your faithfulness to the Lord's commands, which is being stored up, but you wouldn't go to Hell. I just wanted to clear that up. God Bless!

    There is no where anywhere in the bible that a person will go to hell for not paying tithes. In fact, just the opposite is true for anyone who is biblically literate. Christian people are commanded NOT to give under compulsion. God loves a cheerful giver not any warm body.

    2Cor. 9:7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

    I don't know about the Mormon church, but if you're looking at biblical authority, you won't find forced tithing in the bible. God still commands people to tithe because it invites blessing, not because there is a threat of hell.

    VERY poor example. Donation to church is not mandatory in the modern day U.S.

    You won't be arrested for not donating to church vis-a-vis refusing to pay unjust taxes.

    Interesting point. However, as a pastor for the last 30 years I can state very clearly that churches are and should be considered non-profit charities. People who argue against this argue based on rich and large churches assuming that they have vast assets. In fact, more than 95 percent of all churches have less than 500 people and 85% have less than 100.

    Our congregation has about 150 people, with a monthly offering of about 20,000 dollars, to pay for staff, rent, utilities, and ministries. We provide food and presents for 75 families of incarcerated adults each christmas, provide scholarships for daycare for about 10 families - full time - all the time, we support education, poverty programs in Africa, youth programs, addiction programs, children's programs not to mention benevolence work. So I take issue with the proposition that tithing (giving 10%) of your income to a church offsets true generosity as if tithing is supporting some fraternity or community group.

    People who tithe are rare and usually make up only 3% of those who attend church. If you take all Evangelicals, according to Barna, combined they give 4% of their income, (all christians 2.43%).

    Finally, the suggestion that poorer people of faith give less than the wealthy by percentage is also terribly incorrect. We have many times seen families who were posted on a food basket list because someone saw their need, provided food baskets for others. Generosity among the poor is often greater, not less by percentage of income at least among evangelical Christians.

    Libs give more of other peoples money,conservatives give more of their own. The truth hurts.Stop trying to twist it and distort it like your friends in the White House.

    There's no statistical basis for motivation, after all, but we can understand demographics.

    A church isn't less charitable than Greenpeace.
    It really, really depends on the church. I don't think the 10% of their income that Mormons donate to their church is as charitable as a 10% income donation to say, Catholic Charities USA. (I say that not as a Catholic, but as an ex-Mormon!)

    The Mormon church spends a lot of money on proselytizing and paying for temples where they do proxy baptisms for dead people. Back when I was Mormon, my family members contributed hundreds of dollars a month so that I could go knock on doors and convert people to Mormonism. I did almost no other charitable work, so unless you count converting people to Mormonism as charitable work, the money that paid for my time as a missionary was not charity.

    I'm not saying Mormons are wrong for paying for that, nor am I saying the Mormon church does no charitable work (it does). And I'm not just trying to single out Mormons (I'm just more familiar with them).  But the amount of humanitarian work vs. proselytizing/perpetuating the organization varies greatly from church to church. There is no way I would count all church donations as generous charity giving - simply counting conservatives' tithing as charity makes for a very lame comparison.

    It probably isn't a money issue since there are just as many poor conservatives as poor liberals, given voting stats.
    That very well may be true.  I was just tossing the money issue out as an example of a potential confounder - measuring charitable donations as a percentage of income, without considering how much disposable income people have, is flawed.

    And time is certainly something that should be taken into account.

    So my feeling is, unless you can account for these issues, you can't simply conclude (under a simplistic headline or study title) conservatives are more charitable than liberals, or visa versa.
    This is so ridiculous, it is almost funny. Do we consider that Bill Gates is a liberal or a conservative? The average of what he gives every year gets a lot of weight...And if we answer that it is not him as a person but the money he gives away comes from an organization that he created with his wife, then we get into another series of problems and definitions: the study is therefore not serious at all. Books like that are written to please oneself and a few friends.
    I got a question to replace this one: who cares more about the million children that were abused and neglected in 2008 in this country, the liberals or the conservatives? Answer: nobody cares except a few harassed professionals. Children do not vote. Do you think that the pro life care more than the pro choice? Answer: nobody cares, the issue of children is of no interest to either clan.
    Any scientist around here can explain to me why ?

    You bring up a great point - who is defined as what? A big chunk of US citizens do not self-identify in surveys as either conservative or liberal. Plus, some of the passages Kristof quoted from the study referred to differences between Red States and Blue States, which makes it even worse, because you're not  looking directly at the demographic groups the study is supposed to be about.
    The difference - liberals talk and want others (with tax dollars) to do the good while conservatives actually get off their backsides and do it.

    That may be true, but the whole point of this post is that your claim is exactly what you cannot conclude just from the results cited in the NY Times piece.
    Gerhard Adam
    When you say that conservatives get off their backsides .... I assume you mean that they borrow the money to engage in their "good works"? 

    What is amazing to me is that someone is naive enough to believe that simple labels like "liberal" and "conservative" can actually convey meaningful information about people and their actions.
    Mundus vult decipi
    "What is amazing to me is that someone is naive enough to believe that simple labels like "liberal" and "conservative" can actually convey meaningful information about people and their actions. "

    Uh, they certainly do when we're talking about dogma-based Tribalist groups that have fairly firm sets of rules, philosophies and hierarchies.

    Do you mean simple labels like "murderer" or "pedophile" or "rapist" do not convey meaningful nformation about that person and their actions? Labels can serve a very useful purpose when applied properly.

    Gerhard Adam
    Labels can serve a very useful purpose when applied properly.
    Only when they are applied to a homogeneous group that you've actually validated.  Other than that it is a waste of time.  Since "conservative" and "liberal" are applied too broadly to too many people, they are less than useful.  Similarly, "pedophile" isn't a useful label if it covers everything from someone molesting a 5 year old to a 19yr old that has sex with a 17 yr old and yet that's precisely how people often what to phrase it.  Just as "rape" is a different crime than "statutory rape".

    So if one wants to employ labels, then they need to be properly and very specifically defined.
    Do you mean simple labels like "murderer" or "pedophile" or "rapist" do not convey meaningful nformation about that person and their actions?
    You'll also notice that I gave you the benefit of the doubt, because in truth, conflating "murderer" as a simple label in the same sense as "conservative" or "liberal" suggests that you're being disingenuous.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Steve Davis
    Great article Michael, and good points from garance and Gerhard. There's a saying in politics to the effect that you never have a commission of inquiry unless you know what the outcome will be. I suspect many surveys are designed with that in mind.
    And even if the survey itself happens to be good, it's almost inevitable that the results will be garbled in the press.
    A point to ponder - Conservitives are usually against government handouts and liberals are usually for them. Why? A liberal would usuually say because conservitives are greedy and libs are not. The truth is Conservitives simply don't believe it is the job of the government to give charitably, its the job of the people to do that. So apparently they proctice what they preach.
    What's even more interesting is if you look at those facts as a whole it paints the picture I have always thought to be true; A conservative wants to help people directly and feels it is wrong to vote to take otheres money for that purpose while libs want to vote the burden onto the government ie everyone else and somehow they feel good about that? Or do they? when you don't answer your guilt directly it does not go away, so libs are forever giving more and more away (of everyone elses money of course). What's sad is a government check does not impact the recipient the way receiving help from another directly does... Too great quotes -

    "You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot help the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer. You cannot further the brotherhood of many by encouraging class hatred. You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn. You cannot build character and courage by taking away mans initiative and independence. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves."
    Abraham Lincoln

    “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years.
    Great nations rise and fall. The people go from bondage to spiritual truth, to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back again to bondage.”

    Author unknown but usually attributed to ALEXANDER FRASER TYTLER

    Gerhard Adam
    Now ... if conservatives only practiced what they preach when it comes to hand-outs to corporations, and their own pet projects, then it might actually mean something.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Conservatives don't believe in "hand-outs" to corporations. But we do believe in letting them keep as much of their own money as they can.

    Gerhard Adam
    How quaint.  I wonder who that leaves to pay off the deficit created by those same conservatives?
    Mundus vult decipi
    Well let's see... You eliminate the $1.7 Trillion deficit created by the dems just this year by cutting spending. As for paying off the $14.3 Trillion debt, including over $3 Trilion since Obama was elected, reduce taxes, reduce regulation, let the free market work. Growth increases revenue.

    Conservative economics may seem "quaint" to you but they have been proven to work over and over. What hasn't worked is when they refuse to cut the spending along with the taxes. Admittedly a conservative Congress's fault as well.

    Gerhard Adam
    Conservative economics may seem "quaint" to you but they have been proven to work over and over.
    When have they been proven to work, except by conservative anecdotes?  I like how you gloss over the $11.3 trillion dollar debt that existed before Obama got elected.  Just bad luck, I guess.
    Economist Mike Kimel notes that the last five Democratic Presidents (Clinton, Carter, LBJ, JFK, and Truman) all reduced public debt as a share of GDP, while the last four Republican Presidents (GW Bush, GHW Bush, Reagan, and Ford) all oversaw an increase in the country’s indebtedness.
    You're certainly welcome to show your own numbers.  You might want to look at the table on this page, for a reality check.
    Mundus vult decipi
    When taxes were cut, whether by JFK, Reagan or Bush, revenue to the governemnt increased. This was due to the increased growth of the economy. Unfortunately Reagan and Bush did not follow through with a reduction, or even a stabilization, in spending. They continued to outspend their revenue. Conservatives are not innocent in the area of overspending and should be held just as accountable.

    Gerhard Adam
    That's good, however the point about tax cuts and increased revenue is always misleading.  Revenues NEVER increase with tax cuts.  The only thing that can increase revenue is economic growth.  Therefore, when politicians talk about cutting taxes, they are failing to mention that they HOPE that this will stimulate a sufficient degree of growth to offset the losses in revenue created by the tax cuts.  If that doesn't occur, then revenue is lost and the deficit will increase.

    This is the state that we are in right now, and it is highly unlikely that a sufficient degree of growth will occur without revisiting numerous economic assumptions that simply haven't worked out.  Therefore talk of tax cuts with an increasing deficit is simply irresponsible.  This isn't to say that we shouldn't cut spending, but we can't just gut everything and hope for the best.  If we intend to have alternate social programs then they need to be defined and established rather than just waving arms around and assuming that the private sector will pick up the slack.  That simply isn't workable.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Thank you. A reasonable response. However, revenue always increases with tax cuts because of the economic growth which it spurs. Unfortunately the growth is not enough to cover the increased spending that continues.

    There is always hope that this time around the voters can keep their representatives in check. Voter outrage is growing against the excessive spending of both parties.

    Gerhard Adam
    However, revenue always increases with tax cuts because of the economic growth which it spurs.
    Unfortunately, that's not true.  That's part of modern economic mythology, but it simply isn't the way it works.  In the first place, it assumes a closed economy so that increased revenue can't be sheltered from taxes, and it also assumes that growth translates into domestic employment (which it doesn't).   Even the concept of economic growth is ill-defined (which is what is confusing most economists), because it doesn't necessarily translate into growth in employment.

    It seems that many in government have lost sight of the fact that economic recessions resulted in people shifting between jobs and then shifting back when things improved.  However, too many jobs (i.e. "the safety net") are now located in other countries, so there is no buffer against losses for the average worker.  So, while there may be economic growth on Wall Street, it doesn't translate into Main Street, because that's no longer located in the U.S.

    I'm not advocating some kind of protectionism, but unless this is addressed and planned for, the middle class will be reduced to third world status and there won't be any growth that the U.S. can capitalize on.  After all, if taxes are to come from the employed, then the first priority must be the creation of jobs and not simply increased revenue for corporations.
    Mundus vult decipi
    "How quaint. I wonder who that leaves to pay off the deficit created by those same conservatives? "

    You mean defecits also largely contributed to by Left Wing pyramid schemes like Government Mandated Healthcare and Social Security?

    Or is it okay to mindlessly steal and waste money when it's done on the delusion that you can make all the people happy, all the time?

    Steve Davis
    Nicely put Gerhard. And was it JS Mill who said that not all conservatives are stupid, but generally stupid people are conservative. That's just a little to sweeping for my liking, but it has an element of truth. As I see it conservatives have one redeeming feature. For all their faults they see society as an organic whole. That's a huge plus because it means they are not beyond saving.  
    "For all their faults they see society as an organic whole. That's a huge plus because it means they are not beyond saving. "

    Sounds like a lot of totalitarian-collectivist bullshit to me.

    Steve Davis
    "Sounds like a lot of totalitarian-collectivist bullshit to me."
    Actually, it's not.
    Perhaps you should  read up on the history of political philosophy.
    Conservatives have always seen society as an organic whole that they have a duty to organise and manage.
    Don't think for a moment that Thatcher was a conservative.
    She was a radical economic libertarian who had to work long and hard (well, her intellectual colleagues worked long and hard) to convert the Conservative Party to free market economics.
    Liberals always like to pat each other on the backs and say atta boy for affirmation since the facts are rarely in their favor. So I find it amazing that scientists who are supposed to live and breathe the facts have to do the same...
    Sure there are conservatives who cross the line and its absolutely wrong. What’s interesting is if a conservative in congress crosses the line the rest of the conservatives are pretty good about forcing him out but if it’s a lib they all circle the wagons and make excuses for them and keep them there...

    All that to say what is ironic about Gerhard’s "nicely put" comment is it too should be a little too sweeping for your liking. Truth is more Libs are up to no good than conservatives but are just less likely to expose their comrade.
    Since you live and breathe facts here are a few that make both of my points... Gotta love Bankers and congressmen....

    Steve, as a fellow conservative I can lay out why it doesn't work any better in real life than Marxism does - I'm ignoring your jibe at people you disagree with politically because it's irrelevant to the research- as a kid growing up in the country, a lot of things had to be done in groups because there weren't enough people for capitalism to invest and there was no large enough tax basis for the government to do it locally.  

    Say your road is dirt and you would like it paved or even, back then (1980s), if you wanted cable television - all your neighbors had to pitch in for the cost.   Invariably it would be a conservative who would balk at paying anything, either derailing the project or boosting the cost for everyone else.   Yet they get the benefit anyway unless you hire a lawyer to write up a contract.    Without some semblance of liberalism, no community projects would ever get done, including highways and schools.     This site is another example - we are the only science site in the top 25 that does not have a corporate big brother like a magazine or the government paying the bills.    It is primarily academics and liberals who write here because in 100% of the instances I have asked conservatives to contribute a policy or science paper, they have wanted to know how much we pay and had no interest otherwise; the community aspect they have not cared about, just like that paved road.
    Like I say above, studies that say conservatives are more 'charitable' are only using dollars and not time; conservatives have more money whereas liberals (and let's face it, you wouldn't work for peanuts in academia if you care about money) spend time instead.    There are exceptions, like church volunteer workers who donate time and rich liberals who give money to charity but they are exceptions.
    It is primarily academics and liberals who write here because in 100% of the instances I have asked conservatives to contribute a policy or science paper, they have wanted to know how much we pay and had no interest otherwise
    It is a poor economic mind (i.e., one that does not understand the true meaning of opportunity cost) that only thinks of return on investment in terms of money.  One does not have to be altrustic to find potential return on investment for "supporting the community".
    Hank, I like your examples of a local dirt road or cable. You're right that the only economically feasible way to achieve these goals was to gather together and do it. As a conservative I'm also in favor of farmers that join together to purchase equipment (a co-op). These socialist arrangements actually co-exist well in a conservative framework, because they are "local". What conservatives object to is a national socialist agenda. If my neighbor is building a deck I'm happy to help him. But I don't want my tax dollars going to someone in another state so he can bild a deck. Local government allows for local control and accountability. I have no way to check on that other person's deck to be sure it's built well or even if it is built.

    It's good to hear from other conservative scientists.

    Gerhard Adam
    What conservatives object to is a national socialist agenda. If my neighbor is building a deck I'm happy to help him. But I don't want my tax dollars going to someone in another state so he can bild a deck.
    But, you apparently don't object to your neighbor in another state, putting on a uniform and fighting in a war on your behalf.   While there is certainly a place for separation of powers and responsibility, such simplistic thinking is utter foolishness when we're supposed to be part of a country instead of principalities.

    I wonder what part of "united we stand, divided we fall" is missing from this discussion?
    Mundus vult decipi
    Speaking of "simplistic". The ad hominem attack continues to be the last refuge of scoundrels. You can't seem to stay on subject. National Defense is one fo the few powers that are granted to the Federal government by our Constitution. Try reading the 10th Amendment. All powers not specifically given to the Federal government reside with the states and the people. The states, or "principalities" were allowed to be individual laboratories of government. Try what you want, if it works others might want to do it. The closer the government is to the people being governed, the better.

    Gerhard Adam
    The states, or "principalities" were allowed to be individual laboratories of government. Try what you want, if it works others might want to do it.
    You might want to check out the 14th amendment since it changes the argument regarding the powers of the Federal government.  The states do NOT have the right to "experiment" if it violates the rights of citizens and/or the Bill of Rights.  This is precisely why I referred to your argument as simplistic, since it fails at virtually every level except the most trivial. 

    Mundus vult decipi
    I assume you're referring to the "Due Process" and "Equal Protection" clauses. Nothing has been said about denying anyone their rights. I just don't believe in taking the fruits of one person's labor and giving itto someone that didn't earn it. If it is to be done it should be done on a local basis, with local control.

    I have responded to each of your comments with reason and civility. Your insults are not appreciated. I have come to expect them from liberals on other sites but I had hoped for a higher caliber of debate from a fellow scientist.

    Gerhard Adam
    Nothing has been said about denying anyone their rights. I just don't believe in taking the fruits of one person's labor and giving itto someone that didn't earn it.
    Then what would you have the states do that they currently can't?  As for taking the "fruits of one person's labor", well you've already said you agree that it can be done, you're only haggling over the geographic boundaries for it.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard Adam
    Also ... what do you consider an insult?  The way you use "liberal" as if its a dirty word?  If you want a "higher caliber" discussion then don't use conservative talking points as if they're arbitrarily true.  When an idea is overly simplistic, I say so and I haven't attacked you for it.  Similarly when a notion like state's rights is invoked, it is always assumed to be something that should be automatically true, despite not having a single instance of where it is applicable.  This isn't the original 13 colonies any more and the idea that a state should have the right to supercede the federal government makes little sense.
    Mundus vult decipi
    "But, you apparently don't object to your neighbor in another state, putting on a uniform and fighting in a war on your behalf."

    First things first, was this hypothetical neighbor drafted, or did he voluntarily choose to fight?

    You're pretty awful with this whole "Free Will vs Forced by the Establishment" thing.

    Gerhard Adam
    Free Will vs Forced by the Establishment
    So, I take it you're an anarchist?
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard Adam

    Good points Hank.  I would not consider myself a liberal (in the general sense), although I suppose I have ideas that might be considered so by others.
    My main problem with conservatism as it exists today is that (1) it seems too inflexible and wants to cling to ideologies rather than being pragmatic and (2) it seems to go out of it's way to be antagonistic to any different perspective.  While I realize that these statements are too sweeping, in general, this seems to be the tone that conservatism is setting.

    Part of the problem is that too many of the loudest voices among conservatives have elected to "declare war" on liberals (and increasingly it seems like it doesn't even matter what the consequences are) rather than simply disagreeing with them. 

    Regarding the issue of spending money, the only truth I've observed is that the government will ALWAYS take your money, so it seems disingenous to suggest that somehow less money is taken when conservatives are in power (using spending deficits in lieu of taxing is not saving anybody any money).  So quite often, the liberal perspective on spending is that, if you're going to take our money anyway, then it should be spent on people, rather than spending it on other projects.  A classic example taken from the mortgage crisis, is why give money to the lending institutions, when if it had been used to help people in their mortgages, then both sides would have won.  The lenders would've gotten their payments, and the people could've stayed in their homes. 

    I don't have a problem with the idea that there can be far-ranging disagreements about ways to run the country, but I will not accept the idea that somehow I'm "evil", or "stupid", or some "dupe" simply because we disagree.  Conservatives and liberals deserve a better dialogue that name-calling.

    Mundus vult decipi
    So really, can we trust sources like this? The only way to can really trust a study like this is if you know the exact anatomy of it, which we don't. What is considered charitable? How is volunteer work factored in? (actual man hours). What about the effectiveness of each actual charity? Does the charity benefit the benefactor himself? Which group has more opportunities to donate? If I give money to a street performer, does that count? If I'm a social worker, does that count for anything? How about a doctor? WHO WAS SURVEYED? Of equal importance we should all remember that politicians are not necessarily elected because we like them as people. I would rather have a scumbag who kept the economy strong, kept us out of war and lowered the deficit that a wonderful person who screwed over the country.

    And, of course, its idiotic to generalize like this. "liberal" and "conservative" are such broad, fudged terms its hard to tell what they mean anymore.

    On top of it all, I may consider myself liberal or conservative. I donate a certain amount of money. You shouldn't judge my generosity by my political opinions, thats just stereotyping.

    If my personal experience maps to the larger context, we're missing a huge statistical hole in the study: the conservatives I know are much more likely to focus on the deductible status of their charitable giving. My personal statistical sample is tiny, but I can think of more "tax dodge as charity" claims from conservatives and "spending 20% more on fair trade doesn't count as charity" from liberals.

    This maps, in a nice non-conspiratorial way, to the generally agreed (and obvious from the comments here) difference between liberals and conservatives on how much they respect the idea of the government taxing... even when it's not an actual tax dodge, might conservatives care more to document their giving?

    I do suspect that liberals have a lot to learn from digging in deeper to the study around community-based aspects of churches and group giving. Liberals face an odd world: war-making aside, army discipline seems a very good thing for many young members of our species; whether God exists or not aside, religion and religious communities are often at the right scale that science claims is good for community building in our species -- and that part of the study seems strong that they induce greater giving.

    I think this is funny. A bunch of scientist or wanna be scientist arguing over why one political side is evil verses the other (even thought they may do good it's still in "evil" or "greedy" form). The real funny part is all the opinions and statements from such scientist are based on assumptions, scewed, false, or over exagerated information that they believe in.

    Well it shouldn't be too funny. Majority of Science is down in the political pit of dispare, being sucked dry into the black hole of nothing, and on it's way down whoring it's scewed data/ "facts" for gain of political support. Who's your daddy? Lobbiest, and Politicians are your daddy.

    Liberals consistently voting for social programs is more of a permanent solution, than *occasionally* giving to charity. A society is not a society, when everyone has to fend for themselves. People are social animals - socials share with each other. It has nothing to do with earnings ones own way. - this is false.

    Each person is gifted with certain talents, some win, some lose in life - with whatever they happen to possess. Excluding people who are less talented would be cruel and anti-social.

    People conveniently seem to forget that the Red states draw more welfare payments in total. Without this act of sharing, those people would be devastated to the core. I don't mind paying more taxes (sharing my income) with those that have a need. I call it - fixed charity payments - a neccessity of a social society.

    Sorry, but taxes are not charity. Charity is freely given by the individual. Taxes are forcibly taken by the government. Before you jump on that statement...they may not have to take your taxes by force but the threat and the ability and the precedent is there.

    As a conservative I believe that helping an indiviual in need works better when the help comes with certain expectations that the needy individual will try to help themselves. Annonymous checks from the governemnt only create dependency. THis is how the democratic party has built it's base over the years. And, yes, the Republican party is guilty as well, just not to the same extent.

    "Liberals consistently voting for social programs is more of a permanent solution, than *occasionally* giving to charity."

    Sure, if you want to ignore how many of those social programs are purely cosmetic, how many of them are instituted for the purposes of exploitment by liberal politicians (the recent healthcare embezzlement in NYC is a great example), and how many of them wind up being little more than glorified pyramid schemes that leave the people who have been made to become dependent on them worse off than they were before.

    Hi Michael,

    I came across this website and wanted to respond. If you had actually read the book you would have found that it answers most, if not all, of your questions.

    Regarding your first questions, the data from the book states that religious people give up to four times as much and, "Religious Americans are more likely to give to every kind of cause and charity, including explicitly nonreligious charities. Religious people give more blood; religious people give more to homeless people on the street."

    They even give blood more often and I doubt the Mormon church is stockpiling it in the basement somewhere.

    Regarding you second question, it's stated, "The most charitable people in America today are the working poor." and most of today's working poor are conservatives in Red states.

    As for your third question, I think it answers itself. If you're giving blood, for example... what difference does it make if it's urban or rural? Donated blood stays fresh for 42 days. Which means it can be shipped anywhere in the country. Also, the statistics are per capita... not based on population density. And, are you telling me that in your neighborhood outside of Ithaca you couldn't find a single public library, church, temple, homeless shelter, food bank or soup kitchen to volunteer at?

    I have yet to see any organization that uses volunteers turn down more volunteers because they have too many.

    Your post was written a few years ago, so I hope you've been able to correct some of my misinformation since then. I find it irritating that someone would make an otherwise noble and good thing like charity into a partisan political issue by denouncing the facts with arbitrary questions that were already answered in the first place.

    In the future, try READING the stuff you criticizing. It does tend to help.

    Dave K from Philly

    Mike-if you truly don't care about who gives more to charity you would not have written the article in the first place. You do care, and you are bothered that conservatives give more than liberals. Who cares?

    I gave $1,000 and dozens of hours of my time this year to helping people in need. An acquaintance of mine, a conservative, gave $1,200 to his church, earmarked for the purpose of building a new fountain with his name on it - and the name of his business.

    I guess he's more charitable than I am.

    dave k from philly, spare us your false, cheesy indignation. The poster made it clear what he was doing. He isn't "lying". It's obvious you've read the book and made up your mind that it's one more tool or fact to support your politically partisan point of view, so you come off as a huge hypocrit.

    It doesn't help that the charitable giving is all self-reported. I mean, I couldn't tell you how much I gave to charity last year because I don't think that it's important to keep track. I just give it in time or money and move on with my life.

    But would a deathly anti-tax person do that? Of course not. They want their tax deduction. So they keep close track of it. And they have strong social motivations to report more than they actually gave--or simply to estimate high.

    There are so many problems with these kinds of statistics right from the outset--like statistics about how "happy" people are. Except to people who WANT their results to be true, they tend to sound pretty ridiculous.

    Thanks for the great article. In the future, however, you might not want to compromise your credibility by making the only church you mention the church that you left--and, on top of that, to make statements which you back only with assumption-heavy anecdotal evidence. Probably better just to talk about churches in general, or conceptually. Your questions are all hypotheticals, after all.

    Michael, maybe you should do something that I would do when faced with a question like this. Go to the source that raised the issue. Here is the link to the Google book page for the book "Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism". While you can not read the whole book on the site, I think that the first 27 pages of the book will answer some of your questions for you. All of your question maybe answered if you read the whole book. As the Professor wrote at the end of page 24, "These results may surprise you - they certainly surprised me."

    Hope to know that charity services are providing to the poor people . God Bless the Charity

    I read that Arthur Brooks book a while ago, and I'm pretty sure it answers the first two questions raised in this article. Even excluding religious donation, conservatives are more generous. Controlled for income, conservatives are more generous. Even in forms of charity that are not specifically donations of money (e.g., donating blood, volunteerism, and likelihood to return money when given too much change), conservatives are more generous.

    Gerhard Adam
    Hmmm ... let's see. I'm guessing you're a conservative.
    Mundus vult decipi
    John Hasenkam
    Is there any value in using political orientation to analyse behavior? What about voters like me? I'm sick to death of both sides of politics, would prefer to vote independent when possible, and on occasions will vote conservative or liberal if I feel the incumbents have been in too long and have become corrupted. One of my heuristics is that if a party has been in power for 3 terms they are probably already tired and need to be thrown out to teach them some humility. 
    I sometimes wonder if these US-THEM studies is just tribalism in disguise. 
    Simple question, not hard to understand, who is more charitable" consevratives" or " liberials" hands down conseratives. Please no spin the numbers say it all.

    Gerhard Adam
    Another conservative vote.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Well, he's right, but the numbers without some context are as meaningless as any other statistic. It's only when the stats match confirmation bias that there is no skepticism or desire to see the real picture.
    Gerhard Adam
    Well, even the context is meaningless, since it isn't political orientation that determines how individuals actually react and behave.  My problem with the whole concept is that people that aren't charitable feel like they can claim that their "team" is when such nonsense is published.  It's like the "my religion is more real than yours" mentality.
    Mundus vult decipi
    This is the most unscientific article Ive seen using the excuse of science to rebutt the con vs lib charity disparity.
    1. Almost every article I've seen shows a 6% disparity in favor of liberals regarding income. So, no conservative charity is NOT higher because they make more money. Try doing some actual research first (like a scientist would).
    2. Charity via churches needs to be a criteria as opposed to other charity?? That's imbecilic and a red herring. Charity is charity and as every liberal talking point tries to tie entitlement programs to bible quotes about "giving" so your attempts to differentiate between any charity versus churches are invalid.
    The simple fact is that sanctimonious yard signs tying charity to raising taxes in support of the poor has nothing to do with charity (render unto Caesar). Government spending is not charity. It is not a voluntary sacrifice by individuals. No matter how beneficial or humane it might be, no matter how necessary it is for providing public services, it is still the OBLIGATORY redistribution of tax revenues.

    This is surprisingly unscientific as a rebuttal. One of the points of skepticism is to avoid falling into believing what you are already disposed to believe. You seem to be doing this here.

    1. If the question is who is more generous, it doesn't really matter if people are giving to church-based charities or secular charities. Conservatives are giving away a larger percentage of their income. This is something liberals should remember and give them credit for. It might also be a reason for liberals to look at bumping up their giving.

    2. Other studies have found that poor people give away a higher percentage of their income than rich people. So while it sounds logical to think that conservatives are giving away a a higher percentage of their income because they can afford to do it, it is probably not true. Sometimes looking up facts is better science than just using reason. I think you also have to ask if in fact conservatives are richer than liberals and in particular if the conservatives in the study were richer than most people.

    As to your #1: I think it is relevant whether people are giving to churches or not. When we speak of "generosity," we're not speaking strictly of amount given, but the reason the money is given. For example, consider two people going to two different restaurants. Person A pays $50 for a meal. Person B pays $15. Each perceives the service they received as sufficient. Person A and B both consider 15% to be a standard tip, for suggested tips of $7.50 and $2.25, respectively. Person A pays $7.50. Person B, because he wants to be kind to the server, for whatever reason, pays $4.00. Who was more generous?

    Compliance with what one perceives to be a rule is not generosity. Person B was more generous because he exceeded what he perceived as a baseline rule, whereas Person A put no thought to doing so.

    So it is with charitable giving. Giving to one's church is often seen as less generous than giving to, for example, a non-denominational homeless shelter, for a variety of reasons: 1) Because giving to the homeless shelter seems like less of a purchase, as you're not benefiting as directly from funding it (church donations frequently go to maintaining the clergy); 2) Because the connection between giving to a church and a rules-standard is more strictly set. For example, Mormons are expected to give 10% as a rule. Surely they are not as generous as someone who gives 10% for whom giving 10% is not a rule of righteousness or a condition of salvation.

    So, to reiterate the point, including church-based charitable giving in general charitable giving statistics is problematic, especially those portions of giving that go to pay clerical salaries. That said, it can be said that, because charitable giving to churches helps maintain institutions which encourage charity, some portion of the giving should be considered as direct charity. I don't know what that portion would be. It's probably not quantifiable as a statistic, and we're probably misleading ourselves and others by trying to compare conservative and liberal giving statistically. The statistics can only give us so much information--our bias carries us the rest of the way to our conclusions.

    Mike-if you didn't care who gives more to charity then you would not have taken the time to write the article. You do care, and it bothers you that conservatives give more than liberals. Who cares?


    How is this determination made? I have made many charitable donations in my life and have never been asked if I were a liberal or a conservative when I made the donation.