Billionaire Politicians: A Global Perspective

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We introduce an original dataset of formal political participation for over 2,000 individuals included in the Forbes Billionaires List. We find that billionaire politicians are a surprisingly common phenomenon: Over 11% of the world's billionaires have held or sought political office. Even compared to other elite groups known for producing politicians from their ranks, this is a high rate of political participation. Moreover, billionaires focus their political ambitions on influential positions, have a strong track record of winning elections, and lean to the right ideologically. We also document substantial cross-national variation: a country's number of billionaire politicians is not simply a product of its total number of billionaires, but is instead related to regime type. Specifically, billionaires formally enter the political sphere at a much higher rate in autocracies than in democracies. We conclude by discussing the normative implications of our findings and outlining a new research agenda on billionaire politicians.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPerspectives on Politics
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations


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