You: Generous despite downturn

Pew poll shows no drop-off in the share of Americans making charitable donations.

Published December 19, 2008 4:15PM (EST)

Times are tough but American generosity is tougher. A new Pew poll finds:

Despite Economy, Charitable Donors, Volunteers Keep Giving

Most Americans gave financial support to a charity in past year

by Lydia Saad

PRINCETON, NJ -- Despite the significant downturn in economic conditions in recent years, the percentage of U.S. adults opening their wallets to charitable organizations has hardly diminished. More than four in five Americans continue to say they donated money to a charitable cause or organization in the past 12 months -- now 84%, compared with 87% in December 2005.

The poll doesn't ask whether contribution amounts shrunk, so it could be that donations are down despite the percentage of donors remaining relatively constant. And a lot of contributions are church donations, which tend to hold steady, consistently hovering around 60 percent or a bit more. Actually, if 2006 is used as the baseline, the share of non-religious donors actually increased a bit in the past two years.

Overall, though, the story is that people are still giving something, despite the downturn -- which, of course, is precisely when people who are struggling need it most.

That said, in the spirit of holiday cheer: Good for you, good for us, good for America. And since today is the last day I'll be blogging before the holidays, let me wish Salon readers a safe and enjoyable holiday season.

By Thomas Schaller

Thomas F. Schaller is professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the author of "Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South." Follow him @schaller67.

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