Grassroots vs Elites: Poilievre Has Many Small Donors, While Charest & Brown Rely On Bigger Donations From Fewer People

The difference between a political movement and more narrowly targeted elite-driven campaigns.

Many people – myself included – have been describing Pierre Poilievre’s campaign as a ‘movement.’

And this isn’t just rhetoric.

It’s based on the fact that Poilievre is drawing massive crowds across the country, while other campaigns (with the exception of some of Leslyn Lewis’ events) have been much smaller.

Movements are typically contrasted with elite-driven politics.

In a movement, there is a direct connection between a candidate and their supporters, who go to events, sign up, and attempt to persuade others.

In an elite-driven campaign, a candidate appeals to smaller number of powerful, well-connected individuals, who then use their influence and financial resources to bring a larger mass of people onboard.

In short, it’s the difference between a bottom-up campaign, and top-down campaign.

Fundraising numbers tell the story

While the visual evidence for the movement vs elite-driven campaigns being clear, there is now fundraising evidence to go along with it.

As shared by Eric Grenier on Twitter, these are the Q1 fundraising numbers for the CPC leadership race candidates:

Conservative leadership Q1 fundraising (up to Mar. 31):

$545,298 – Poilievre
$490,088 – Charest
$225,571 – Lewis
$115,775 – Brown
$90,945 – Aitchison
$53,987 – Baber

This would give the impression of a somewhat close race between Poilievre and Charest.

But here’s where it gets interesting:

Charest’s average donation was $815.

By contrast, Poilievre’s average donation was $163.

Charest’s average donation is exactly five times larger than Poilievre’s.

This also means that – in the time measured – Poilievre had about 3345 donors, while Charest had 601.

You can see this compiled below by Marc Guénette:

Leslyn Lewis had more donors than Charest with 1455, while Roman Baber (who many admire for taking a strong stance against lockdowns and restrictions as an MPP in Ontario) had 474 donors, not far off from Charest.

Leslyn Lewis’ average donation was $155, while Baber’s was $114.

Where it really gets interesting is Patrick Brown’s campaign:

In Q1, he raised $115,775.

Yet, his average donation was $1,586.

Brown’s average donor gave almost 10 times as much as Poilievre’s.

As noted above, this also means Brown had just about 73 donors in that time.

Aitchison’s numbers were similar, with about 70 donors and an average donation of $1,299.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with people giving lots of money to the candidate of their choice, as it’s their money and they should be able to do with it as they see fit.

That said, the contrast is quite dramatic, and the numbers tell a clear story.

The movement dominating the CPC race

Poilievre is far ahead of all other candidates in total donors, with more than all the others combined in Q1.

Clearly, the large crowds at his events represent something very profound and very real taking place in this country.

Pierre Poilievre is building a movement based upon the growing recognition of Canada’s moribund economy and the failure of statist policies. As the cost-of-living surges, more Canadians will seek a clean break from Trudeau’s policies, and this is what Poilievre represents.

Leslyn Lewis is also attracting more of a broad-based following, likely representative of her support among the social-conservative wing of the party.

By contrast, Charest is struggling to attract large crowds, and his support appears concentrated among a small number of well-connected people.

And – as also evidenced by his struggle to gain traction on social media – Patrick Brown has a small number of donors, though those donors are giving large amounts. This is likely due to Brown’s very targeted and almost under-the-radar campaign. It remains to be seen if that strategy succeeds, or will be drowned out by Poilievre’s mass movement.

In the end, the CPC leadership race will likely come down to a mass movement campaign vs the elitist remnants who oppose it.

Spencer Fernando

Photo – YouTube


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