Spending on Presidential Elections

by Veronique de Rugy

Over at Mother Jones, David Gilson notes that the cost, in real terms, of winning the presidency has increased dramatically over the years:

Barack Obama spent $730 million getting to the White House in 2008—twice as much as George W. Bush spent 4 years earlier and more than 260 times what Abraham Lincoln spent in his first election (as measured in 2011 dollars).

Seth of Erik Rising doubled down with a chart showing the spending per vote cast, which arguably is a better indicator than real spending. To produce the chart he divided “Gilson’s cost figures by the number of votes cast in each election (as recorded by David Leip).” Here is the result:

Interestingly, with a few noticeable exceptions, the spending per voter is relatively stable over time, in spite of changes made to campaign-finance laws. It would be good to see the spending per eligible voters, but as noted by Seth, the data would be really hard to get for many of these years.

Thanks to Tyler Cowen for the pointer.

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