Infographic: How Both Presidential Candidates Grossly Outspent Their Predecessors

An election day infographic tallies up the money driving both campaigns, illustrating the vast differential between 2012 and every other election year.

Infographic: How Both Presidential Candidates Grossly Outspent Their Predecessors

Well, the day is finally here. Whether you voted early or are running to the polls today, it’s going to be a tough one to sit through. We all know infographics are a noted cure for anxiety (and a leading cause of distraction), so here’s one more 2012 election graphic from Best Degree Programs to keep you busy until you can go home and park yourself in front of the TV.


This election cycle has been dominated by stories about money: the candidates’ own money. The candidates’ plans for America’s money. The money (or lack thereof) of their supporters. The exorbitant sums of money given by unseen interest groups. The exorbitant sums of money each campaign will have spent by the closing of polls today.

But then, it seems like every election in living memory has been the subject of campaign finance controversy. Were this year’s fundraising tallies really so astronomical? According to this inflation-adjusted comparison of every election since 1860, yes. Yes, they were. In 2011 money, Obama and Romney have outspent every presidential candidate since Lincoln defeated Douglas (Lincoln would have spent $2.8 million total had he run this year) by several hundred million dollars.

There are some other interesting insights to be had, too, if your delicate constitution can handle the over-the-top graphic design. For one, a comparison of who gave what to each campaign reveals that most of Obama’s donations came in small sums. Obama raised $354 million of his campaign funds in individual donations under $200, while Romney only received $78 million in donations under the same amount. Romney made up the difference in donations over $2,000, which contributed $170 million to his campaign. Meanwhile, Obama’s big spenders contributed a paltry $92 million. The huge disparities in these numbers speak both to the Obama campaign’s deft outreach strategy (Rufus Gifford, you sly son of a gun) and to the income brackets of Obama and Romney supporters.

Unsurprisingly, conservative super PACs have outspent their democratic rivals by more than $200 million. Restore Our Future, a Romney super PAC, will have spent $142 million over the past year. The largest democratic super PAC, Priorities USA Action, will have spent less than half of that. The story is much the same when it comes to partisan committee raising, with the RNC outdoing the DNC by roughly $100 million.

In other words: The popular little-guy-versus-big-guy narrative is largely true when you compare the finances of each campaign. But when it comes to a historical reading of this year’s fundraising, both candidates are big guys.

If you want to go deeper (and ditch the graphics), check out the New York Times’ excellent interactive tally here. Infographic via Business Insider.

About the author

Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan is Co.Design's deputy editor.