Men in Utah have thrown their financial weight behind former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump in almost equal measure during the 2020 presidential election cycle, campaign finance data show.
But a new analysis from The Salt Lake Tribune and the Center for Responsive Politics shows women in the reliably conservative state have donated far more money to the Democratic presidential nominee — who has raised $708,000 from female donors — than to Trump, who has brought in $429,000 from the group.
The campaign donations represent a significant shift in the importance of female voters in this presidential election and demonstrate that women are now “putting their money where their votes have been,” said Morgan Lyon Cotti, associate director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah.
“In the past, perhaps within a marriage or within a partnership, women were more likely to align with their husband or their boyfriend and so wherever those donations were going they were fine with,” she said. “But now with this gender gap, it’s more likely that a woman votes differently from her husband or boyfriend and she wants to donate her money in the way that’s in line with her beliefs and values.”
Men are still more likely to donate to political campaigns overall, Lyon Cotti said, but there’s been a “big increase” in the number of female donors over the past decade and particularly in this election.
The campaign finance analysis shows Trump has raised $1.1 million among male voters in the Beehive State. Biden has raised around $1 million, or 60% of his total donations, from men, while 40% of his itemized contributions come from women in Utah — a smaller gender gap than Trump’s at 27% support from women.
Contributions are itemized or disclosed, along with donors' identifying information, to the Federal Election Commission once someone contributes more than $200 to a candidate.
The gender divide in campaign contributions seems to align with recent polling that shows men in Utah standing solidly behind the president while women are more evenly split between the two candidates. A Y2 Analytics poll released earlier this month showed that male voters favor Trump by 25 points and women favor Biden by 4 points.
Nationally, surveys show Biden is polling around 25 points better than Trump among women.
Jeff Merchant, chairman of the Utah Democratic Party, said he thinks those numbers and the campaign donation data in Utah reflect a fatigue among women with the Republican Party.
“You’re seeing a lot of women who are really kind of tired of what’s been going on,” he said. “And whether that’s involving equal pay or issues such as, geez I don’t know, making women have higher premiums simply because they’re a woman in the health care [arena], there’s just all sorts of issues women are taking far more seriously” and that may move them to the left.
There’s also a need to consider, Merchant said, what he calls “the clear misogyny of Donald Trump.”
At least 25 women have accused the president of sexual assault or nonconsensual physical contact, and Trump has a long history of attacking women based on their appearance and weight or comparing them to animals.
Just weeks before the 2016 presidential election, a video surfaced of Trump bragging to Billy Bush of “Access Hollywood” that he tries to sleep with married women and that he is forceful with those he finds attractive.
“I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait,” he said in the now infamous tape. “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”
“Grab them by the p---sy,” he said. “You can do anything.”
Lyon Cotti said many people speculated in 2016 that the video was “going to turn off women voters and [they] were surprised that as many women voted for him as they did.”
Trump won a plurality of white women in 2016 and did particularly well among white women without college degrees. Black women, on the other hand, voted for Clinton in high numbers across all education levels.
But Lyon Cotti said women’s marches, the #MeToo movement and other social and political shifts over the last four years may have served to mobilize women to the left since then.
“We’ve seen a lot of both quantitative and qualitative data showing that he certainly hasn’t won over any more of those women and a lot of women who voted for him in 2016 do not plan on voting for him again,” she said.
Laurel Price, executive director of the Utah Republican Party, said she wasn’t surprised to see the gender divide in Utah’s campaign donations, noting that there’s “no question” polls have shown Trump is less popular among women.
“It’s not terribly surprising you would see the donations would follow that track a little bit,” she said.
But while she said she personally disagrees with some of the president’s comments on women, she noted that female voters will also be considering the economy, national security and the appointment of conservative Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett when they cast their ballots.
“I suspect that maybe some women will choose to support President Trump but they’re maybe not going to wear a MAGA hat while they’re doing it,” Price added. “They may be more quiet about that support.”
‘A lot more riding on this election’
Rosalyn Eves, a 43-year-old professor at Southern Utah University, has donated “at least twice” to Biden’s campaign this year, small contributions of about $25 at a time. But the amount belies their significance as her first time ever financially supporting a national campaign.
“Mostly I feel like there’s a lot more riding on this election than there has been in the past,” she said of her decision to throw financial support to Biden and other candidates.
Eves, an unaffiliated voter who said she tends to lean left, said another reason she chose to donate is because her plans to volunteer for the Democratic nominee were disrupted by the pandemic, teaching full time and child care.
“I don’t have the time, but I do have money,” she said. “Not that I’m rich, but I felt like I wanted to contribute.”
Eves noted that her support for Biden is rooted in her moral values as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She described Trump as “pretty sexist” and expressed vehement opposition to the administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their families at the border.
“I take seriously the baptismal covenant to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort,” she said. “I think I can’t vote just based on what politically conveniences me. I have to look at what policies benefit the most people and especially what policies help the marginalized. And I do not feel like Donald Trump cares about marginalized communities.”
Jody England Hansen, a 63-year-old Millcreek resident, said she’s given about $200 to the Biden campaign so far — a decision she said has also been influenced by her religious beliefs.
“My lifetime in the church informs everything I do, including this,” she said.
But while a number of Latter-day Saint women have mobilized this year to vote for Biden, Hansen said her views haven’t always been met with support from some members of her congregation.
“I have experienced people who attack me because they don’t think someone who’s Mormon should be voting the way I vote and I think that’s tremendously inappropriate,” she said.
The ruling First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has reiterated this election cycle that it is neutral on partisan matters and that principles compatible with its teachings are found in multiple political parties. Members can join any party and remain in good standing, the church has said.
But Rob Taber, national director of Latter-day Saints for Biden-Harris, said the group has been aware “from the beginning” that its message would largely resonate with women of the faith, who he said think about policies and the way they affect their families differently than men might.
The group’s Facebook statistics bear that out, with women making up about 70% of its audience on the social media platform, he said.
“Latter-day Saints also match national trends where women just in general are more likely to vote for the Democratic nominee and they’re also more likely to be repulsed by the president’s poor behavior and conduct and the poor example he sets,” Taber noted.
But while Utah’s campaign donations show greater financial support among women for Biden, that doesn’t mean Trump has lost support among the demographic altogether.
Anna Bates, who lives in Orem, made at least one of the 525 individual donations the president’s campaign has received from Utah women this year. She said she voted for Trump in 2016 because he’s a “creative man” and she was excited to see what he would do in office.
“He’s not trying to do what everybody else wants him to do,” she said.
Bates said she voted for the president again this year. And while she wouldn’t specify how much she donated to his campaign, she assured it was “plenty.”
“I’ve lived a long time, and it’s such an important time in our lives to get somebody that will get on, stay with their principle and follow them,” Bates said.
‘Getting into the ballot box’
Evidence of a gender divide in Utahns' political donations exists not only on the presidential level but also in the state’s hotly contested 4th Congressional District race between Republican candidate Burgess Owens and the Democratic incumbent, Rep. Ben McAdams.
Campaign finance data show McAdams has raised over $1 million among women, or 35% of his donations, while Owens has brought in around $460,000, or 24%, from the group.
Owens' campaign did not respond to a request for comment on the campaign finance numbers and McAdams' team declined to comment.
Merchant, the chair of the Democratic Party, said he was “not surprised” to see a gender divide in donations in the race, a reality he said shows women in the suburban district are “interested in problem solving more than they are in partisanship.”
“And in Ben McAdams' case, let’s be honest, that is a simple decision that these women have to make,” he said. “I mean, the reality is is that if you’re interested in a problem solver, yeah, Ben McAdams is talking policy and you have Burgess Owens who’s talking socialism. They’re really ships passing through the night in many ways.”
The race between Owens and McAdams is expected to be one of the most competitive in the country, and nearly $19 million has poured into the contest.
Hansen, a registered Republican who lives in the 4th Congressional District, said she’s among the Utah women who have opened their wallets — for her to the tune of around $120 — to help McAdams win reelection.
The Millcreek resident said she feels McAdams “really listens to people share their experiences and their concerns with him.” And she’s concerned the Republican candidate has shown “a propensity toward conspiracy theories” with his appearances on programs affiliated with QAnon, a baseless far-right fringe movement Owens has said he does not believe in.
While Owens has received less support among female donors than McAdams has, Price, the GOP executive director, said she thinks the campaign donations may not necessarily be indicative of the amount of support Owens has among women in Utah.
“I see a lot of enthusiasm from women for Burgess and what he stands for and believes in and the way he would represent women’s issues here in the state,” she said. “And so I think women particularly are really excited about Burgess. I’ve sort of witnessed that over the last year in my role as executive director as he has worked hard to get where he’s at.”
As Election Day draws nearer, Price said she’ll be watching to see how donation data and polling bear out for the candidates in both the 4th Congressional District and the presidential race.
“Donations definitely can be indicative of how people are going to vote,” she said. “But at the end of the day, it’s getting into the ballot box and actually voting” that will make the difference.
— Salt Lake Tribune reporter Becky Jacobs contributed to this report