Party Competition and Industrial Structure in the 2012 Elections

By Thomas Ferguson |

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This paper by Roosevelt Senior Fellow Thomas Ferguson, Paul Jorgensen, and Jie Chen analyzes patterns of industrial structure and party competition in the 2012 presidential election. The analysis rests on a new and more comprehensive campaign finance database that catches far more of the myriad ways businesses and major investors make political contributions than previous studies. By drawing on this unified database, the paper is able to show that both major parties depend on very large donors to a greater extent than past studies have estimated.

The paper outlines the firm and sectoral bases of support for the major party nominees, as well as for Republican candidates who competed for the GOP presidential nomination. It shows that President Obama’s support within big business was broader than hitherto recognized. A central conclusion is that many major companies in the sectors most involved in the recent controversies over surveillance were among the president’s strongest supporters. The paper also analyzes patterns of business support for the Tea Party in Congress, showing that certain parts of business are more supportive of Tea Party candidates than others. The role of climate change, financial regulation, and other issues in the election is discussed at length.

Thomas Ferguson is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts in Boston and a Senior Fellow of the Roosevelt Institute. He is the author or coauthor of several books, including Golden Rule and Right Turn.