How Conservative Are the GOP Presidential Candidates?

The graph is from this analysis by Adam Bonica and Kevin Collins.  They write:

The upper panel plots the proportion of funds raised from donations of $500 or less (including unitemized contributions) against candidate ideology. As is evident, more conservative candidates, particularly those affiliated with the tea party, raise a greater proportion of their funds from small donors. The circle sizes are proportional to the Intrade share prices for the respective candidates as of June 13th. The circles are colored coded based on candidacy status. Those who have officially announced their candidacy are red, those who have not yet announced are purple, and those that have decided not to run are green.
The bottom panel overlays two kernel densities drawn from the 2010 Election cycle. In red is the ideal point distribution of Republican candidates. This gives a sense of how the presidential candidates locate with respect to the party as a whole. In gray is the distribution of Republican donor ideal points, each weighted by the total amount donated during the 2010 Election cycle. This characterizes the fundraising landscape with respect to ideology.

They also contrast their findings with those of Nate Silver.  See more at the post.

9 Responses to How Conservative Are the GOP Presidential Candidates?

  1. Chris June 14, 2011 at 10:11 am #

    This seems to be a one-dimensional chart of “establishmentness” (ie, proportion of donations received from corporations relative to conservative activists).

  2. Chris June 14, 2011 at 10:16 am #

    As a left-right ideological measure, it doesn’t pass the laugh-test.
    Daniels to the right of Perry?! Santorum to the left of Romney?!

  3. Adam June 14, 2011 at 1:17 pm #


    You raise an important point about ideological measurement. We each have in our heads a rough idea of how candidates align ideologically. What makes both ideology and its measurement possible is that these perceptions are correlated across individuals. The trick is to devise a way to aggregate across those perceptions in a way that separates the signal from the noise.

    It might help to think of a company’s stock price. Some investors are long while others are short—and it’s not uncommon to think the other side’s position is laughable. The share price is a mechanism to aggregate over those beliefs. The model, which is rooted in psychometrics, performs a vaguely similar function in a different context.

    So although the model didn’t pass your laugh-test, it did pass a comprehensive battery of model tests. Beyond that, the best we can do report the results faithfully. People have differing views about the ideology of candidates, but that’s sort of the point of building a model.

  4. roseonpolitics June 14, 2011 at 1:41 pm #

    We also don’t know the reasons why people donate to certain candidates over the other. Picking someone to support who they think can win even though they don’t agree with them on everything could be a reason.

  5. LFC June 14, 2011 at 3:35 pm #

    The ideology-measurement model may have passed “a battery of model tests,” but I doubt many knowledgeable observers would put Daniels (not running) way to the right of Santorum. So something appears to be wrong. Silvers’s graph has Daniels and Santorum positioned much differently and, imo, more justifiably.

  6. Diet Coke Party June 16, 2011 at 7:35 am #

    This is what happens when people know a great deal about “methods” and almost nothing about politics. (Or maybe were once interested in politics and then went to a grad program where the ethos is that a true scientist knows nothing about politics and cares less.)

    You lose me when you think it is even an arguable point whether Santorum is to the left of Romney (even Romney 3.0). It’s sad when Nate Silver, who is not even a “political scientist” is more on the money than scholars.

    • Karyn June 14, 2013 at 4:26 pm #

      As a political science graduate student who follows day to day politics closely, this comments resonates with me.

  7. Timothy June 19, 2011 at 11:43 pm #

    I know for a fact Giuliani is more conservative than Huntswoman the Democrat appeaser and I know Santorum is more conservative than many on the chart.

  8. Timothy June 19, 2011 at 11:46 pm #

    Daniels is not more conservative than Santorum or Perry. Santorum’s put on the left of the list for some reason, although he was one of the most conservative Senators out there.