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(Reuters) - Wealthy U.S. investors plan to donate more to charity in the next three to five years or continue giving at current levels, and about half contributed to political campaigns last year, according to survey results released on Wednesday.
The findings appear to indicate that wealthy investors are optimistic about the stock market and their financial well-being, said Una Osili, director of research for the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, which conducts the biennial study.
"We have more than 50 years of data to show that charitable giving is affected when the stock market is uncertain," she said.
In periods of recession, such as 2001-2002 and 2008-2009, the number of gifts per quarter is less than half that in more prosperous periods, according to a 2011 study by Indiana University.
Twenty-four percent of the 700 high-net-worth investors surveyed said they planned to give more to charities in the next three to five years, while 52 percent said they would give as much as they do now, according to the study sponsored by Bank of America Corp. Nine percent said they planned to give less in that time.
Wealthy investors are making donations to political campaigns as well as charities.
Fifty-two percent of respondents said they had given to political causes in 2011 for purpose of electing or defeating a candidate. That is much higher than the average 10 percent to 12 percent of mainstream investors who do so, Osili said.
The high percentage of wealthy investors who said they were had contributed to political campaigns "is really significant given that 2011 was not an election year," said Claire Costello, philanthropic practice executive for U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management.
This was the first time that Bank of America asked the question, so could not provide historical context.
The political donations by wealthy investors are unlikely to interfere with their charitable giving, said Ken Nopar, a consultant to financial advisers.
"It's usually above and beyond what they give to charity," he said.
The nationwide survey was conducted by mail from April to August. It is based on responses from 700 U.S. households with a net worth of more than $1 million, excluding the value of their home, and/or annual income of more than $200,000.
Sixty percent of the wealthy investors surveyed said education was the among the top social issues that mattered to them, while 45 percent said health care, 38 percent said the economy and 34 percent said poverty.
Regardless, 36 percent of wealthy donors directed their largest gifts in 2011 to religion, while 25 percent donated to educational institutions and 8 percent to healthcare organizations.
Reporting by Jessica Toonkel in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn