Who is More Charitable, Liberals or Conservatives?

Who is More Charitable, Liberals or Conservatives?

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I am engaged in a spirited ongoing debate with tax blogger James Maule about the relative motivations of conservatives and liberals regarding America’s tax policy.

Mr. Maule contends that I and those like me who oppose high taxes and the commensurate and inevitable permanent increase in the size of the federal government are motivated primarily by a desire to increase our own wealth while he and others like him who favor high taxes and bigger government are motivated primarily by a desire to help the less fortunate.

I found a blog post by conservative Michele Malkin which addresses better than I ever could the absurdity of these claims (emphasis is Malkin’s):

A few years ago, economist Arthur Brooks wrote a must-read book on volunteerism in America titled, “Who Really Cares.”

Here’s an excerpt:

The conventional wisdom runs like this: Liberals are charitable because they advocate government redistribution of money in the name of social justice; conservatives are uncharitable because they oppose these policies. But note the sleight of hand: Government spending, according to this logic, is a form of charity.

Let us be clear: 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. Because government spending is not charity, sanctimonious yard signs do not prove that the bearers are charitable or that their opponents are selfish. (On the contrary, a public attack on the integrity of those who don’t share my beliefs might more legitimately constitute evidence that I am the uncharitable one.)

To evaluate accurately the charity difference between liberals and conservatives, we must consider private, voluntary charity. How do liberals and conservatives compare in their private giving and volunteering? Beyond strident slogans and sarcastic political caricatures, what, exactly, do the data tell us?

The data tell us that the conventional wisdom is dead wrong. In most ways, political conservatives are not personally less charitable than political liberals—they are more so.

People living in conservative states volunteer more than people in liberal states. In 2003, the residents of the top five “Bush states” were 51 percent more likely to volunteer than those of the bottom five, and they volunteered an average of 12 percent more total hours each year. Residents of these Republican-leaning states volunteered more than twice as much for religious organizations, but also far more for secular causes. For example, they were more than twice as likely to volunteer to help the poor.

Studies like this one by Mr. Brooks should have long ago put an end to the left’s charges that conservatives are heartless bastards. But, alas, they haven’t because there is simply too much political gain to be had by liberals from the continued demonization of those who have the temerity to oppose their agenda.¹


¹  To be fair, there is no evidence whatsoever that liberals are less patriotic than conservatives, yet conservatives continue to accuse liberals of anti-Americanism because it is politically fruitful to do so.

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About Peter Pappas

Peter is a tax attorney and certified public acccountant with over 20 years experience helping taxpayers resolve their IRS and state tax problems.

He has represented thousands of taxpayers who have been experiencing difficulty dealing with the Internal Revenue Service or State tax officials.

He is a member of the American Association of Attorney-Certified Public Accountants, the Florida Bar Association and The Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants and is admitted to practice before the United States Tax Court, the United States Supreme Court, U.S. District Courts - Middle District of Florida

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  1. Thank you for posting this article! It’s very refreshing to have some real data to back up what I have always suspected!

  2. I don’t think it is really surprising or shocking that Republicans give more since they are more associated with religion

    I don’t think really anyone winning this argument matters much as giving more doesn’t really prove their tax arguments one way or the other

  3. HappyTaxDude says:

    Another anecdotal comparison of charitable giving might be comparing Schedule A’s of sitting Vice Presidents from each end of the political spectrum. For example, V.P. Cheney’s 2002 Form 1040 (http://www.taxhistory.org/thp/presreturns.nsf/Returns/EFA38DE69480678385256E4400794B42/$file/R_Cheney_2002.pdf) reveals total income of $1,170,369 and charitable contributions of $121, 983 – or 10.4% of total income. V.P. Biden’s 2008 Form 1040 (http://www.taxhistory.org/thp/presreturns.nsf/Returns/2236B3FAD3419596852574C2005A5A9E/$file/J_Biden_2009.pdf) reveals total income of $333,182 and charitable contributions of $4,820 – or 1.4%. The “evil” Dick Cheney versus the “lovable lug” Joe Biden – you be the judge.

  4. I don’t think that a statistic that shows people in conservative states volunteer more than people in liberal states proves that conservatives volunteer more than liberals.

  5. This is BS. Someone tried to tell me conservatives were more charitable than liberals and told me “look on the internet, there are tons of studies.”

    Well, it’s BS. What there is is one book, that is not a scientific study by any standard, that was published in 2006. There are tons of articles citing this book as proof that conservatives are more generous/charitable than liberals, but they all have the same unreliable source (Brooks’ book). The Brooks’ book is full of misinformation. I don’t know if there were any serious studies ever made on this subject, but I can’t them because every link I’ve tried just goes to a new article about an old book. It’s like propaganda.

    I would easily believe that conservatives, including rich billionaires donate more in total dollars, since most rich people are conservative, but there is no way I’ll believe that conservatives volunteer more time or donate more if you don’t count the donations of the ultra-rich, unless someone gives some decent evidence.

    I know Bill Gates probably donates more money in a year than the 100,000,000 poorest Americans combined, but I don’t know if he is a Democrat or Republican (or if he even votes).

  6. anon,

    The truth stings.

  7. Conservatives only give if there is a tax break or they think it will win them a place in Heaven. Liberals give because they feel it’s their duty.

  8. Gayle,

    That’s adorable.

  9. Gayle with the opinionated straw man.
    To requote Peter to anon, the Truth stings.


  1. […] See my prior blog post Who is More Charitable, Liberals or Conservatives? Bookmark & […]

  2. […] ³ The left, it appears, is “charitable” with other peoples’ money while the right is charitable with its own. See my blog post Who is More Charitable, Liberals or Conservatives? […]