I guess to answer that question postulated in the title you have to define charitable giving. So I am going to define it as thus, anytime you voluntarily part with money or property that you have no legal obligation to do so and for which you receive nothing in return except for possibly a tax exemption. Yeah, it is a bit harsh, but if I didn’t define it like that some idiot could define going to McDonald’s as charity since you have no legal obligation to part with the money. No, it has to be this way, whether you give to a church, other religious organization, homeless shelter, goodwill, salvation army, or any one of a number of non-profits, you are engaging in voluntary charity. But how does your personal politics tie into that?
As it turns out, that is a question The Chronicle of Philanthropy was investigating. Yes, I read the Chronicle of Philanthropy, I read plenty of out-of-the-way and weird things, how else do you think I know so much? Variety people, even if you aren’t that interested in it. So anyway, here I am looking at this graph that shows the percentage of income given to charity by state. It doesn’t break down the per capita income, which would quantify the whole chart in another way, it simply lists the charitable giving by state. Then it lists colors the graph based on how they voted during the last election cycle. I wish they would have colored the charts based on the election cycles since Reagan, but we take what we can get. Here is where it gets interesting.
The top 8 states in charitable giving all voted for John McCain in 2008, and 12 of the top 15 are “red” states. Conversely, the bottom 7 states all voted for Obama, and 12 of the bottom 15 are “blue” states. Well what does that say. Well, I also noticed the top 8 states are all either southern states (MS, AL, TN, SC, AR, GA) or deeply religious with high Mormon populations (ID, UT). The bottom seven states are almost all northeastern states (NH, ME, VT, CT, RI, MA) the only one that wasn’t is Wisconsin. However, that large of a grouping of states by area and giving could be described by not only their personal politics but also their religious affiliation. Those in the south are probably more likely to belong to a church or be more deeply religious. Note I am not saying all, I am saying as a general rule. So, these people donate more in their local religious organization which counts for the higher amounts of charity in their regions of the country, not their personal politics. But, since those in the Northeast are more likely to belong to the left wing of the social scale, they are also more likely to believe that most charity work is the job of the government, since they spend so much of our tax dollars on it to begin with, which would explain the lower levels of giving.
So it is not all neat and tidy, it is rather convoluted. Clearly, a mixture of religion and personal politics play into this equation. However, you would have to take into account tax structure and burden, along with regulations regarding charitable giving in that particular state. I think it is too big and complex to be zeroed down to one factor, but a single factor would be a good indicator of how charitable giving breaks down.
I was caught off guard by one of the comments underneath, wherein the author called religious giving not charity but, for the politics of waging a Culture War. Last I checked a not for profit was a charitable organization organized under a certain code in the tax laws. That is all, nothing more or less, whether that organization is pro-choice or pro-life, for or against gay marriage, creationist or Darwinist, etc. they exist to advance their causes. Your agreement or disagreement with them doesn’t make them any less a charity, even if you really want it.
Just remember, charity begins at home, support the things you are interested in and be sure to get involved. Connection and a helping hand for others are the true goals of charity, not simply how much you give.