Chris Cillizza writes on WashingtonPost.com yesterday:
It costs a lot of money to run for office. But how much exactly?
A great infographic from Good magazine — with data from the good people at Maplight — helps answer that question.
According to their calculations, in the two years prior to taking office the average Senator raised $6.4 million ($8,700 a day!) while the average House Member raised $1.2 million ($1,700 a day).
So this magazine says it is 6.4 million for the Senate, and 1.2 million for the House. Note that these must be challengers, not incumbents, because it says “prior to taking office.”
Now let’s compare these figures to the paper by Stephen Ansolabehere, Erik Snowberg, and James Snyder from 2005, published in the journal Public Opinion Quarterly (and available for free online here).
According to Table 1, Senate challengers spent an average of $864,813, and House challengers spent an average of $149,902. That’s much less than the magazine’s numbers, but note we are now talking about expenditures versus money raised. I suppose one explanation for the difference could be that challengers keep the rest for future campaigns.
In keeping with the goal of the paper, Ansolabehere, Snowberg and Snyder also find that the average spending by Senate candidates as reported in the news media was $12.7 million; for House candidates it was about $1.2 million.
Another fun thing about that paper: they surveyed the public and found that the public generally overestimated the amount of money raised:
To gauge the degree of misperception, we conducted a national survey of 1000 adults and asked how much money they thought the typical U. S. House incumbent raised for reelection. The average estimate among survey respondent was that House incumbents spend $5.8 million to win reelection. In reality, the average U. S. House incumbent raises and spends approximately $780,000.
To the extent that the paper and the magazine report disagree with one another, I (obviously) would believe the paper. If you read the infographic linked to in Cillizza’s post, you’ll see that it is produced by the campaign finance reform advocacy group RootStrikers (Lawrence Lessig’s group I believe) and are asking people to sign an “anti-corruption” petition; they don’t tell you how they got their numbers or what the data sources is. In contrast, the academic paper documents where the data come from (the Federal Election Commission) and explains any decisions made about, for example, how to classify different types of donation.