Cost breakdown of US elections

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on Feb 22, 2024
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  • Since 2014, the Democrat party has spent more on election costs than the Republican party every term.
  • Average spending by the winning senate campaign in 2024 could exceed $30bn for the first time.
  • The total cost of the election process is predicted to tip $20bn in 2024.

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The US election cycle for 2024 is officially underway, with Joe Biden and Donald Trump predicted to be the two front-runners competing for the US Presidency in November. 

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It’s no secret that elections are an expensive process – and 2024 is set to be no different. The experts at Invezz.com have analyzed election cost data over the past 10 years to formulate our spending predictions for 2024 – and this year, the total election costs could surpass $20bn for the first time in US history.

Harsh Vardhan, Lead News Editor at Invezz.com said:

Politics is an expensive business, and our analysis predicts the costs of the 2024 US elections to reach record highs. It’s clear that the political stakes are high this year in an incredibly charged and divisive climate, and there’s no doubt that’s also going to be reflected on the money spent on campaigns this year.

Total election cost predicted to tip $20bn in 2024

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The total cost of the election process is predicted to tip $20bn in 2024, for the first time in history. In the last presidential election cycle, in 2020 the total cost of elections was $16.4bn – but this number is predicted to jump by a further $4bn this year.

Our team analyzed data from the past 10 years, in which there were three presidential elections in addition to the congressional races every other year. 

Over the course of this period, the average increase in election spending was 54%. In addition, congressional election costs increased by an average of 15% in the same period of time – with an average overall increase in the total cost of elections of 21.7%.

Using this figure, we were able to estimate the total election spend for 2024 – a whopping $20.3bn.

Congressional election costs

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In the last 10 years, the average cost of congressional elections has increased by an average of 15.1%. With the overall average rate of increase, the total cost for congressional elections in 2024 is set to be around $10.2bn. 

It’s worth noting, however, that the costs of congressional elections actually fell slightly in 2022 ($8.9bn) compared to 2020 ($9.9bn). Spending on congressional elections saw an increase term-over-term between 2012 and 2020, with an average increase in spending of 21.9%. In 2022, however, spending dropped by 9.8% – from $9.9bn to $8.9bn in total.

It’s interesting to note that both party’s considerably lowered the spend in 2022 compared to 2020 – the Democrats spent 56% less in 2022 than they did in the 2020 election cycle, while the Republicans spent 33% less. 2022 was also a year in which the Republicans won a congressional majority back from the Democrats.

Presidential election costs

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Similarly, our calculations predicted that the 2024 presidential election costs would also just surpass $10bn, considering the average increase in spending by 54.2% each presidential election year in the past decade.

In the years between 2016 – when Donald Trump was elected as President – and 2020 – when Joe Biden won the Presidency, spending on the presidential elections spiked by a whopping 121%, from $2.9bn in 2016 to $6.4bn in 2016.

While the average rate of increase in presidential election spending over the last 10 years is 54%, if this year’s presidential election sees another monumental jump in spending as witnessed between 2016 and 2020, we could see presidential elections costs alone reaching as high as $14.3bn. This is in addition to the estimated $10bn in costs for the congressional elections.

Democrat Party election spend could surpass $10bn this year

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Since 2014, the Democrat party has spent more on election costs than the Republican party every term. In 2022, the party’s total spend was $4.17bn whilst in the last presidential cycle, total costs came in at $9.59bn.

Using the average rate of increase from 2020 – the last presidential election cycle – we estimated that the total Democrat spend for 2024 could be in the range of $11.6bn – the first time either party would surpass $10bn in spending.

Republican Party have spent less than Democrats Since 2014

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In contrast, the Republican party has a history of spending considerably less than the Democrats – in 2020, the party spent approximately $2.5bn less than the Democrats, with a total spend of $6.04bn. 

This year, our calculations predict that the Republicans may spend in the area of $8.6bn on elections in total. 

Average winning vs losing Senate campaign spend

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In 2022, the average spend for the winning senate campaign was a huge $26.5bn – almost double that of the losing senate campaign ($13.5bn). While the figure for the winning senate campaign stayed relatively similar in the 2020 presidential election cycle ($27.1bn), the figure spent by the losing senate campaign was almost double that of 2020 in 2022, at $24.8bn.

If we look at the average rate of increase in spending across a 10-year time span, spending by the winning senate in 2024 could exceed $30bn for the first time – with estimates set at a huge $32.1bn.

The losing senate, by contrast, is predicted to spend $17.6bn – although this could be far higher considering the spike in spending in 2020.

Average winning vs losing House campaign spend

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The average spend of the winning house campaign in each election cycle has increased by between 3 and 37 percent between 2014 and 2022, with an average increase of 13.2%. With this figure in mind, the winning house campaign in 2024 is estimated to have spent $3.1million. 

In contrast, the losing house campaign is estimated to spend less than a third of that in 2024 – with a predicted total spend of just $995,875 (up from $803,773 in 2022).

While the winning house’s campaign spend has increased year-over-year, the average spend of the losing house campaign fluctuates considerably each year. 

In 2022, the losing house’s average spend was 25% less than it was in 2020. In 2018, however, the losing house (Republicans), spent a huge 171% more than the previous election cycle in 2016.

Methodology

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We used publicly available data from opensecrets.org to analyze variables associated with US elections over the past 10 years – including the total election cost, costs by party, and by type of race.

Our team then assessed the average percentage increase or decrease year-on-year, and the overall average increase to enable us to forecast the potential costs associated with the coming 2024 elections.

While these figures are predictions, they’re based on fluctuations and trends from the election cycle over the past decade.

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