Data Shows Economists Are Wrong—Wine Industry Doesn’t Support Trump
Quite recently the American Association of Wine Economists (AAWE) made headlines by publishing a dataset highlighting presidential campaign contributions originating from individuals in the wine industry. It created a bit of a stir, particularly the AAWE’s conclusion that “The U.S. Wine Industry overwhelmingly supports President Trump”. Some thought this conclusion misrepresented the data and reality.
It does. On a number of levels. In fact, the AAWE’s data and calculations have serious flaws—in its dataset, its research and analysis.
Here is the original post from the AAWE’s twitter feed:
In terms of $$, the U.S. wine industry overwhelmingly supports Trump. Almost no support for Biden. Most and smallest contributions for Sanders. More details to come. pic.twitter.com/yXLYhAOaFi
— AAWE (@wineecon) June 4, 2020
THE ECONOMISTS COMPARE APPLES AND ORANGES
Note the headline on the graph: “Wine Industry’s Contributions to 2020 Presidential Election”
President Trump is shown receiving $606,131 in campaign contributions from wine industry-related sources for the 2020 presidential election. (It should be noted that when you download and examine the AAWE’s spreadsheet of contributions taken from the Federal Election Commission, the total donations on that sheet add up to $601,372). However, in order to get to this $600K+ total wine industry-related donations to the Donald Trump Campaign for the 2020 election, the economists also include donations from the wine industry for the 2016 election.
If the economists over at the AAWE want to compare wine-industry donations to the Trump Campaign from 2015 to 2020 with wine industry donations to other presidential campaigns during that same time frame, then you’d have something relatively similar to examine. But that’s not what they have done. The economists have compared Trump’s wine-industry donations for two elections against candidates who only ran in 2019/20 — and we are not even anywhere near the end of this campaign cycle when many more thousands of donations will come in for either Trump or Biden. That’s not a fair fight. And it is highly misleading.
In the above graph, the economists show Bernie Sander’s wine industry donations at $71,567—But that’s only for the years 2019 to 2020. Had they also included Bernie’s donations from 2015-2018, as they did for Mr. Trump, Bernie’s wine industry donations would amount to $168,950.
THE ECONOMISTS ERASURE OF HILLARY CLINTON
More important, if you want to gauge support for Mr. Trump from the wine industry and do so going back to 2015, to get an accurate picture of the degree to which the wine industry supports him versus other candidates, you really should include wine industry donations to all the people running for President in the 2016 election — not only those candidates running in 2020. Hillary Clinton ran in 2016. But she isn’t included in the AAWE’s dataset.
Searching the Federal Election Commission campaign contribution database, I found that wine-industry-related contributions to Hillary Clinton from 2015 to 2020 amount to $1,473,011. This is twice as much as Donald Trump attracted from the wine industry in the same time period. Clearly the wine industry overwhelmingly supports Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. That fact didn’t show up in economists’ analysis.
THE BIDEN ODDITY
The economists at the AAWE made a point of noting, as you can see from their graph above, that Vice President Joe Biden, according to their search of the Federal Election Committee campaign contribution database, has received only $10,000 in wine-industry campaign contributions: two $5,000 donations from the owner of Puma Springs Vineyard in California. That struck me as odd. And very unlikely. So I looked at the same database.
It took me all of 30 seconds to turn up 271 donations to Vice President Biden from wine industry-related individuals from 2019-2020, amounting to $69,851.
It’s unclear how the Economists could have missed these donations from the wine industry to Biden and it calls into question the remainder of their conclusions.
However, the economists’ primary conclusion is that the wine industry in the U.S. “overwhelmingly supports President Trump.”
In a June 8 VinePair article, the American Association of Wine Economists Journal editor in chief Karl Storchman doubled down on his assertion of wine industry support for Trump, telling writer Tim McKirdy, “What qualifies as support? I’m an economist — for me, you express your opinions with dollars.” He added that the AAWE aims to do this by sharing “the data, statistics, and facts.”
If you really want to evaluate support within the wine industry for the current collection of presidential candidates, the first thing you have to do is settle on a time frame for doing so. You can’t look at Trump’s donations going all the way back to 2015 through 2020, while only looking at donations for the current set of 2020 democratic candidates from 2019-2020. You need to look at all the candidates’ wine industry support from just 2019-2020.
When you do this, you find that the wine industry overwhelming supports someone other than Donald Trump.
I did a comparison of campaign contributions to a select group of candidates running for the presidential nomination of their party for the 2020 presidential election. Recalling that the AAWE’s data for Joe Biden was so far off the mark, I did my own searches of the Federal Election Commission’s database of campaign contribution, rather than using the figures the AAWE provides in its spreadsheet of campaign contributions located on its website. I looked at donations from the wine industry for Donald Trump, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, and Elizabeth Warren. I looked for contributions only from the years 2019 and 2020.
What’s clear from this rendering of wine industry-related campaign contributions is that Donald Trump is not overwhelmingly supported by the wine industry. What’s clear is that the wine industry overwhelmingly supports someone other than Donald Trump — to the tune of 60%.
In a June 5th Facebook post, the AAWE commented on what it means to have support from the industry and how to gauge support. The comment came in response to a comment by Food & Wine Wine Editor Ray Isle:
“Ray Isle, I suppose you mean there are fewer “wine industry people” in favor of Trump than otherwise (if that is how you define “support”). We don’t have any data on that and all we know is anecdotal. And I am not even sure whether that is true or not. What qualifies to be “support”? — Aside from the sheer $-amount (more than 80% of all contribution $ go to Trump), Trump also has more unique contributors than Sanders (who is the next closest). Maybe there are differences within the “wine industry” (growers, winemakers, trade, media). In the file, you will see that many NYC wine stores supported (=contributed to) Sanders, Harris, or Warren. Maybe fine wine drinkers are more left-leaning than, e.g., growers, but that is speculation. The only way to tackle this is either looking at $ amounts or the number of unique contributors.”
Again the economists are fudging the numbers. As you can see from the graphic on the left, Trump receives 40% of the dollar value of contributions, not 80%…that is if you compare apples to apples and look at the 2020 Presidential campaign figures for all the candidates instead of counting Trump’s 2016 donations AND his 2020 campaign donations.
Moreover, if you gauge support from the wine industry based on the number of contributions and not the total dollar value, Trump finds himself in an even less enviable position among the wine set:
TOTAL CONTRIBUTIONS BY WINE INDUSTRY SOURCES
TO SELECTED CANDIDATES IN 2019/20
Trump: 1,284 (30%)
Sanders: 2,079 (49%)
Harris: 307 (7%)
Warren: 293 (7%)
Biden: 272 (6%)
Seventy Percent of wine industry related campaign contributions during this current political season go to someone other than Trump—one more indication that in no way whatsoever does the wine industry “overwhelmingly support President Trump”.
THE CASE OF MARVIN SHANKEN & THE WINE SPECTATOR
Let me just say right off the bat, Marvin Shanken, the publisher of The Wine Spectator, is the last person who needs defending by me. He’s more than capable. So I won’t defend him, nor condemn him. What I will note is that if you look at wine industry campaign contributions for the 2019/2020 season, Mr. Shanken has given none to the Trump campaign. Many people got very consternated to learn from the AAWE data that Mr. Shanken had donated to the Trump campaign in 2016 and 2018. I get that.
But here’s the interesting thing. In order for Mr. Shanken to show up at all in the AAWE dataset, the person who gathered and analyzed the data for the AAWE had to go out of their way looking specifically for Mr. Shanken. However, they did not go looking specifically for everyone else in the wine industry who showed up in their data of Trump campaign contributors. And the only way to go get and display Mr. Shanken’s contribution data was to include 2016, 2017, and 2018 contributions in their analysis, while at the same time not including campaign data from that time frame for any other candidate. That’s very very odd.
When you search the Federal Election Commission database of campaign contributions you can’t say to it…”Show me all contributions from people connected to the wine industry.”
The only indication a person who contributed to a campaign works in the wine industry has to be ferreted out by searching for wine-related terms in the “Occupation” or “Employer” search areas of the database.
So for example, to build my dataset of wine industry related campaign contributions while researching this article, I searched under the years 2019 and 2020, I asked for any contributors whose employer name included the words “wine”, “winery”, “vineyard”, “cellar”, “Vintner” and “Chateau”. Then, I indicated the candidate or the candidate’s political action committee (PAC) I wanted this query to look at. Using this string of word queries under the “Occupation” search area doesn’t yield good results because someone working for, say, Joe’s Estate Winery might have the title of “Marketing Manager” while another employee of Joe’s might have the occupation of “Winemaker”. The winemaker’s campaign contributions will show up in my search, but campaign contributions from the “Marketing Manager” will not show up.
If you do the search my way, using the “Employer” search area and my string of wine-related terms, for every candidate who ran for president for the past 20 years, Marvin Shanken’s name will not come up because his employer is listed as M. Shanken Communications and that doesn’t include any of my search terms. You have to go out of your way and specifically look for his name in the “contributor name” search box. That’s exactly what the folks at AAWE did.
What isn’t clear is which other names or employers the AAWE economists specifically sought out that didn’t include wine-related terms. As far as I can tell, every other wine industry-related Trump Campaign contributor going back to 2015 has the world “wine”, “vineyard” or “cellar” in its “Employer” entry. M.Shanken Communications is the only one that does not have one of these words in its employer identification area in the AAWE dataset.
Was the AAWE just trying to be thorough by specifically looking for Mr. Shanken’s donations? I don’t’ think so. They apparently couldn’t take the time to do a search on “Constellation Brands” to add to their dataset, which although it doesn’t include the words “wine”, “vineyard” or “cellar” in the employer entry area, would have turned up a number of folks in the wine industry making donations to presidential candidates. Nor did they take the time to do a separate search for ShipCompliant, National-Republic, Young’s Market, Wark Communications or any other entity not including “wine”, “vineyard” or “cellar” in the employer entry area. Just M. Shanken Communications.
I’m not surprised that in addition to highlighting the notion that the wine industry “overwhelmingly” supports Trump. the AAWE also highlighted Mr. Shanken being Trump’s largest supporter from within the wine industry. That gets headlines and serves other purposes.
THE BOTTOM LINE — THESE ARE DANGEROUS TIMES TO BE WRONG
The economists at AAWE knew that their conclusion and headlines (“Wine Industry Overwhelmingly Supports Trump”) were clickbait. I’m not willing to presume otherwise and in the process insult them and their intellect. Mr. Storchman went ahead and reiterated this point to the media in an interview besides it being noted on their Twitter and Facebook posts.
But the AAWE is wrong. The Wine Industry overwhelmingly supports someone other than Trump. The data shows this. The data also shows that the AAWE went out of its way to target Marvin Shanken. The AAWE data shows a very sloppy work product in overlooking 270 campaign contributions to Joe Biden and undercounting Biden’s wine industry contributions by more than $67,000. Not to mention undercounting Senator Harris’ campaign contributions by half. Finally, the AAWE went out of its way to count Trump campaign contributions going back to 2015, while only counting contributions to Biden, Harris, Sanders and Warren going back to 2019. That’s not how you play cricket.
In these times, many people believe supporting President Trump with a campaign contribution is akin to embracing “racism” or “fascism” or any number of other isms. Yet the AAWE purposefully gave the impression that the wine industry “overwhelmingly” embraces Donald Trump. It’s not true. The data shows the opposite.
Again, in these times, real, hard, honest, truthful data is more important than ever. Facts matter. Lots of things, lives, people, livelihoods and ideas are at stake. These are not the times for sloppiness or lies or innuendos.