Bernie Sanders wants people to know that he is raising campaign funds only through small donations. He does not seek money from billionaires. To prove his point he quotes the average donation size.
In what may be a cynical ploy on Hillary Clinton’s part, she is asking people to donate only one dollar to her campaign. This will skew any single statistical number she can quote to compare her donations with Bernie’s. Her comparison number will start to look a lot like Bernie’s number, but the situations could not be more different.
Here is a comparison between two different, simple scenarios. I hope this demonstrates the trap that Bernie has laid for himself by accustoming people to look at the size of the average donation as an indicator of what type of people are funding his campaign.
In the upper example we have 1,000,000 people contributing $1, and no large contributions (in this example – no other contributions). So all one million people have an equal financial influence on the campaign.
In the lower example there are 500,000 people contributing $1, and one person contributing $500,000. Obviously the one large contributor has as much financial influence on the campaign as the other 500,000 contributors combined.
The top example has an average contribution of $1, whereas the bottom example has an average of $2. In both cases, the median is the same. In other words half the people contribute a dollar or less, and half the people contributed a dollar or more. However, in terms of influence of large donors, the situation could hardly be more different.
In the top example, 100% of the money raised came from people donating $1. In the bottom case, only 50% of the money raised comes from people donating $1, and 50% come from 1 person donating $500,000. Could Bernie start using this type of comparison to ward off the his trap that Hillary is about to spring on him?