SAN DIEGO, Oct. 22, 2003 (PRIMEZONE) -- To most American voters, the current presidential campaign is, as always, a contest between Republicans and Democrats. But according to a new consumer classification system from market research firm Claritas Inc., the real battle for the White House is being waged between segments of the population called Bedrock America and Greenbelt Sports.
This unusual political spin is provided by PRIZM(r) NE, the newest lifestyle-based segmentation system from Claritas, the pioneer of geodemography, or the practice of linking demographics to a place. Based on new census and marketing research data, PRIZM NE classifies the nation's 290 million people into 66 distinct lifestyles types or "clusters." Analyzing federal records of donors to the presidential candidates during the first six months of 2003, PRIZM NE found that George Bush's highest share of contributions came from communities classified Bedrock America, a cluster of young, downscale families in the nation's heartland. Meanwhile, current Democratic frontrunner Howard Dean attracted the largest concentration of his donations from Greenbelt Sports, a segment of upscale, suburban couples.
Not surprisingly, the analysis of federal campaign records found that wealthier Americans provide the largest total amount of contributions. Of the $74 million donated to candidates during that period, the residents of Upper Crust, the wealthiest suburban lifestyle type in places like Beverly Hills, Calif. and East Hampton, N.Y., contributed 13 percent, or $9.5 million, of the total amount.
The richest urban lifestyle type, called Young Digerati and representing singles and couples living in fashionable city neighborhoods, provided 11 percent, or $8.3 million, to political candidates. The donor file, maintained by the Federal Election Commission, only lists contributors who gave more than $200 -- omitting those who gave lesser amounts.
But the Claritas analysis, which compared the amount of money donated from each PRIZM NE segment to a candidate versus its total donations to all the politicians, reveals surprising pockets of support for different candidates. For instance, President Bush receives money from many lifestyle types, but a disproportionate share of his contributions come from small-town or suburban family clusters, with names like Fast-Track Families (upscale, exurban families) and Pools & Patios (empty-nesting suburban couples). By contrast, Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont, attracts a lot of money from young, urban clusters like Young Digerati and Bohemian Mix (midscale, younger singles), while a disproportionate share of contributions comes from town segments like Blue Highways (midscale families in isolated towns) and Heartlanders (rural, working-class couples).
Among the other candidates, Rep. Richard Gephardt attracts an older and more urban donor base, with the top ten clusters including Multi-Cult Mosaic (immigrant gateway communities), American Dreams (affluent, multi-ethnic families) and Gray Power (midscale suburban retirees).
Sen. Joe Lieberman gets the highest share of his contributions from upscale suburban clusters, including the three wealthiest lifestyles in the nation: Movers & Shakers, Blue Blood Estates and Upper Crust. Sen. John Kerry also records a high concentration of donations from affluent lifestyles, though more are living in urban than suburban areas. At the same time, Sen. John Edwards, attracts money from the widest range of donors, from the upscale suburbanites of Young Influentials to the downscale rural families in Shotguns & Pickups.
As expected, deep-pocketed Republicans have kept George W. Bush's campaign coffers flush in these early months of the race. Over the first half of this year, 40 percent of all donations have gone to Bush, with an average donation of $1,547. Among the Democrats, John Kerry garnered the highest share of donations --15 percent of all dollars -- but John Edwards received the most money per donation, $1,179. By comparison, Howard Dean's backers supplied only 7 percent of all donations, yet they represented 14 percent of all donors, indicating a large number of small contributors. Their average gift was $525-about a third of Bush's donation size.
Because the federal election records list the donors' ZIP Code, the PRIZM NE analysis also shows the most politically generous ZIPs in the country. The most "giving" ZIP is 10021, in Manhattan's Upper East Side, whose residents provided candidates $1.1 million. The ZIP, which PRIZM classifies Money & Brains (wealthy urban couples), is home to celebrities like Ellen Barkin and business moguls such as Leonard Lauder of Estee Lauder, Loews Hotel Chairman Jonathan Tisch and Baron Capital Fund manager Ron Baron.
Nor is this largesse anything new. A USA TODAY analysis of presidential fundraising in 1988 also identified 10021 as the biggest source of political donations. For more than 20 years, political strategists have used clusters from Claritas to target America's increasingly fickle voters. The Claritas data has become even more valuable as party-line affiliations have diminished in recent years, prompting politicos to turn to cluster affiliations to understand how allegiances shift depending on the issue and politician.
During the 1996 presidential campaign, for instance, President Clinton's reelection team used the clusters to identify the nation's swing voters and then craft ads and speeches to help him address their concerns. A survey of 10,000 voters found a significant block of uncommitted voters in the Big Sky Families cluster, a group of young, socially conservative voters who cared deeply about family and fiscal matters. Acknowledging their concerns, Clinton ads began blasting opponent Bob Dole's proposal to cut Medicare, and Clinton speeches began casting the President as the staunch defender of issues like family leave, education and the environment.
These days, politicians employ sophisticated marketing tools like PRIZM NE to reach ever-smaller divisions within the electorate. Americans are too complex to be counted on to behave as traditional voting blocs of union members or senior citizens. Seniors, for example, don't all feel the same way.
The suburban retirees who live in Pools & Patios are economically conservative Republicans, wary of the party's stand on abortion and other social issues. In Old Milltowns, many aging voters still support unions and describe political issues in terms of class conflicts between management and labor; they still see big government, and the Democrats, as their protector.
"PRIZM NE allows politicians to know that they've got strong support in the rural families of Mayberry-ville, but still need to do some work among their suburban cousins in Kids & Cul-de-Sacs," says Michael Mancini, the Claritas vice president of consumer targeting who oversaw the PRIZM NE project.
Ultimately, the cluster analysis of presidential contributions reveals where the current candidates have their strongest support among voters -- and where they have to reach out and find new constituents to win next November's election. Reflecting the PRIZM NE analysis of early campaign donations, here's the cluster profile of campaign contributors:
George Bush-Contrary to stereotype, George Bush's supporters are not confined to old-money Republicans. The top ten clusters of support, all classified either suburban or small-town segments, contain donors who live in affluent suburban areas like Winner's Circle as well as downscale rural communities designated Bedrock America. Even in the working-class communities, however, the Bush backers have the wherewithal to give more than $1,600 per contribution, reflecting the fervor of their support.
Howard Dean-The greatest number of donors to the former Vermont governor's campaign are the young, single citydwellers of Young Digerati and Bohemian Mix. But Dean still receives a disproportionate share of contributions from younger, exurban clusters like Young & Rustic and Mayberry-ville. Eight of his top ten clusters of support are in the small-town social group; seven of ten are home to young singles and couples. In addition, he draws contributions from the "granola crowd" of upscale rural residents from God's Country and Greenbelt Sports.
John Kerry-True to his Massachusetts roots, the liberal senator appeals first to the young, urban liberals in Young Digerati and Bohemian Mix. But he also draws significant financial support from the wealthy suburban families found in Movers & Shakers, Blue Blood Estates and Beltway Boomers. Of his top-ten clusters for financial support, eight are found in the wealthiest fifth of all segments; he's apparently popular among "limousine liberals."
John Edwards-The North Carolina senator has yet to make any inroads among big-city Democrats, according to the PRIZM NE analysis. But his top clusters show support from small cities and exurban communities -- segments like Old Milltowns, Crossroads Villagers and Hometown Retired. In contrast to the image of Edwards as the favorite of wealthy lawyers, nine out of ten of his backers live in clusters of modest means, ranked below the 39th rung on the 66-rung socioeconomic ladder.
Dick Gephardt-The veteran Democratic congressman from Missouri attracts an older donor base; six of his top-ten clusters are filled with mature singles and couples. But his message also plays well in metropolitan areas, with all of his best clusters classified urban or suburban. Among his strongholds are clusters of older, former union workers with names like Gray Power, Old Glories and New Empty Nests. All contain residents that are midscale, retired and suburban.
Dennis Kucinich-Less than one percent of total contributions went to the Democratic congressman from Ohio. But Kucinich's does have strong appeal among the older town residents of Traditional Times and Heartlanders, as well as the more urban liberals in American Dreams and Brite Lites, Li'l City.
Al Sharpton-The New York minister/activist has attracted relatively few donations, only 0.2 percent of all contributions. The PRIZM NE analysis revealed a breath of support among residents from urban minority communities (Urban Elders, Big City Blues), suburban Boomer havens (Executive Suites, Beltway Boomers) and small-town clusters (New Homesteaders, God's Country). However, because fewer than one hundred contributors gave him money, Claritas statisticians said that these results must be viewed with caution.
Joe Lieberman-About 10 percent of all donations went to the Connecticut senator and centrist Democrat, most supplied by wealthy suburban clusters like Upper Crust, Blue Blood Estates and Movers & Shakers.
Lieberman also appeals to young, single citydwellers among his strongest clusters-like Young Digerati and Boomtown Singles -- but his top segments for donations are suburban and upscale.
Naturally, these cluster profiles may change as some candidates improve their popularity, others flag and many simply drop out of the race. But the biggest wild card in predicting contributor profiles can't be forecast: a mercurial candidate changing stances or the last-minute entry into a race by a retired general, former First Lady or big-muscled, action movie star.
For further information about PRIZM NE, please visit the Claritas website "You Are Where You Live" at www.yawyl.claritas.com.
(Note: The number of federal donor records to Carol Moseley Braun were too few to permit a statistically valid analysis. Further, the records do not include recently announced candidate Gen. Wesley Clark, and Sen. Bob Graham has dropped out of the race.)
The Claritas Inc. logo is available at: http://media.primezone.com/prs/single/?pkgid=508
Claritas Inc. Stephen F. Moore (858) 677-9634