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most politically engaged states 2020
One way voters demonstrate their support for political candidates is by making campaign contributions, something Americans have increasingly done over the last few decades. According to Pew Research Center, the percentage of Americans giving money to a political candidate doubled from 6% to 12% between 1992 and 2016. That means more Americans are allocating parts of their paychecks or using some of their savings to back the candidates they think will do the best job. It’s a way for voters to put their money with their mouth is and take an active stand in the political process, something that is top of mind during an election year.

With that in mind, SmartAsset decided to crunch the numbers and find the most politically engaged states in the country. Specifically, we looked at voter turnout, registration rates and donation data. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, check out the Data and Methodology section below.

Key Findings

  • Turnout is on the decline. According to Census data, the average voter turnout across all 50 states was 50.7% in 2018, down from 58.4% in 2016.
  • The range for average donation amount by state is $64. Average donation amounts across the country vary significantly by state. For 2018, Nevada had the largest average donation per person at more than $68, while South Carolina had the smallest at about $4.

1. Maine

Maine is the most politically engaged state in the country, according to Census Bureau data. It leads the study for voter turnout in both 2016 and 2018 at 71.3% and 64.5%, respectively. The Pine Tree State also leads the study in percentage of those registered to vote in 2018, at 77.1%. Maine doesn’t place as well when it comes to donations, but in no metric does it rank lower than 26th out of 50.

2. Montana

Montana is another state where the voter turnout is consistently high relative to that of other states. In 2018, the turnout was 63%, the second-highest rate for this metric in the study. In 2016, it was 65.2%, which is the sixth-highest rate for this metric in the study. The Big Sky State also ranks well for the average 2018 donation amount per person, finishing fifth at $23.04.

3. Wisconsin

The highest-ranked Midwestern state in the study, Wisconsin has consistently high voter turnout. The Badger State had the second-highest turnout in 2016, at 68.7%, and the third-highest in 2018, at 62.6%. It also has the eighth-highest percentage for its 2018 voter registration, at 70.5%.

4. Virginia

Virginia ranks fourth overall in our study on the most politically engaged states. It ranks in the top half of the study for all seven metrics we considered but really shines by finishing fourth for all four of the donation metrics we measured. In 2018, the average donation per person was $30.76, and the average donation as a percentage of earnings was 0.04%. In 2016, the average donation per person was $34.54, and the average donation as a percentage of earnings was 0.05%. Virginia’s 7th Congressional District ranks among the most livable places to impact the 2020 election.

5. Wyoming

Taking the No. 5 spot in our study on the most politically engaged states, Wyoming had the eighth-highest voter turnout in 2016, at 63.5%. It didn’t place as well for its 2018 voter turnout, ranking 22nd at 51.2%. It finishes in second place overall for both of the 2018 donation metrics, with an average donation of $41.79 per person and 0.07% for its average donation as a percentage of earnings. Wyoming also finishes in the top 10 for the 2016 donation metrics, with its average donation amounting to $27.03 per person and comprising 0.05% of earnings.

6. Missouri

Missouri finishes in the top half of the study for all metrics. Furthermore, it ranks in the top 10 for two of the voter turnout metrics we considered: its 2016 turnout of 62.8% and its 2018 registration rate of 70.6%. The state also finishes in the top 20 for both of the 2018 donation metrics, with an average donation of $11.55, comprising 0.02% of earnings. For Missouri residents looking to allocate more money to political contributions, they might do well to use a budget calculator as they make their decisions.

7. Minnesota

Minnesota finishes in the top five of the study for voter turnout and and sixth for registration. Its turnout was 65.3% in 2016 and 59.5% in 2018, while its 2018 registration was 70.8%, which ranks sixth-highest in the study. The state ranks in the top half of the study for both 2018 donation metrics, at $11.89 per person, and the average donation as a percentage of earnings, at 0.02%.

8. Michigan

Michigan had the third-highest 2018 voter registration rate in the study, at 71.2%. The Wolverine State also had the seventh-highest voter turnout for that year, at 57,7%. It didn’t place quite as well in 2016, finishing 13th, though its voter turnout was higher that year, 61.8%.

9. North Dakota

North Dakota ranks well in the voter turnout metrics. It comes in fourth for its 2018 turnout, at 59.8%, as well as for its 2018 registration, at 70.9%. Political donations, though, are a bit of a different story. The state ranks 46th out of the 50 states for average donation per person in 2016, at $6.42, which was just 0.01% of earnings, the lowest rate for this metric in the study. Despite this, the state ranks within the top 25% of the study for its high 2016 voter turnout, high 2018 average donation per person and high 2018 average donation as a percentage of earnings.

10. Washington

Washington State finishes in the top half of the study for every metric. The only metric in which it cracks the top 10, however, is 2018 voter turnout, at 56%. The state also had the 12th-highest average donation that year, at $15.02.

Data and Methodology

To find the most politically engaged states in the United States, SmartAsset analyzed data for all 50 states across the following metrics:

  • Voter turnout. The percentage of citizens  ages 18 and older who actually cast a ballot. Data comes from the Census Bureau and is for 2016 and 2018.
  • Voter registration. The percentage of resident citizens who registered to vote. Data comes from the Census Bureau and is for 2018.
  • Average donation per person. Data comes from OpenSecrets.org and is for 2016 and 2018.
  • Average donation as a percentage of earnings. Donation data comes from OpenSecrets.org and earnings data comes from the Census Bureau. Data is for 2016 and 2018.

First, we ranked each state in each metric. Then we found each state’s average ranking, giving a full weight to the three turnout and registration metrics and a half weight to the four metrics pertaining to donation . The states were then assigned an index score based on the average ranking. The state with the highest average ranking received a score of 100, and the state with the lowest average ranking received a score of 0.

Tips for Getting Engaged in Your Financial Plan

  • Elect the best advisors. If you want more money to give to your preferred candidates, use a financial advisor to build your wealth and cater to your specific situation. Finding the right financial advisor who fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard, though. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Smart allocations. Use SmartAsset’s paycheck calculator to see what you take home each week, a useful piece of information if you are deciding whether or not to make political contributions.
  • Don’t spend too liberally or save too conservatively. If you’re making political donations and managing your other priorities, stick to a balanced budget by using the 50/30/20 budget.

Questions about our study? Contact us at press@smartasset.com

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/franckreporter

Ben Geier, CEPF® Ben Geier is an experienced financial writer currently serving as a retirement and investing expert at SmartAsset. His work has appeared on Fortune, Mic.com and CNNMoney. Ben is a graduate of Northwestern University and a part-time student at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing and a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®). When he isn’t helping people understand their finances, Ben likes watching hockey, listening to music and experimenting in the kitchen. Originally from Alexandria, VA, he now lives in Brooklyn with his wife.
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