Political Donations from Academia

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that academics give more money to Democrats than Republicans.  But when you actually examine the political donations data, it is shocking to see just how uniformly one-sided the contributions are. 

I obtained information on political donations from the Open Secrets web site, which gets its data from federal filings.  I then identified the top ten ranked universities according to US News and World Report.  I searched Open Secrets for all political contributions during the 2008 election cycle for people who listed these top 10 universities as their employer.  Here is what I found:

Distribution of Political Donations During 2008 Election Cycle
  Dollar Value # of Donations
   % Dem % Dem
Princeton 81% 88%
Harvard 92% 94%
Yale 94% 94%
Stanford 84% 90%
Penn 86% 90%
Cal Tech 94% 88%
MIT 93% 94%
Duke 81% 84%
Columbia 78% 91%
Chicago 96% 96%
Total 87% 91%

Almost nine out of every ten political contributions from employees of these universities went to Democratic candidates or supporting organizations.  There was almost no variation across institutions.  Among these top universities it didn’t matter whether it was a technical institution or not; it didn’t matter what region it was in.  Academics overwhelmingly donate to Democrats. 

I also examined how much was given to Obama relative to Clinton.  Here, too, academics are clearly further to the Left, as can be seen in the table below.  Almost three-quarters of contributions to those two candidates went to Obama.  Compare this to a relatively even split among primary voters and delegates.

Split of Clinton and Obama Donations 
  Dollar Value # of Donations
   % Obama % Obama
Princeton 75% 83%
Harvard 68% 74%
Yale 70% 77%
Stanford 73% 72%
Penn 84% 83%
Cal Tech 74% 85%
MIT 92% 96%
Duke 76% 85%
Columbia 56% 63%
Chicago 97% 95%
Total 74% 78%

I also did a small test to see if these patterns were unique to elite institutions.  I collected the information for the University of Oklahoma, which is ranked 108th (according to USNRW) and is located in a solidly Republican state.  The results are basically the same.  93% of all dollars contributed from U of OK employees go to Democrats and Obama gets 97% of the contributions to him or Clinton.

Obviously, academics are free to donate to whomever they prefer.  And I have no problem with an institution, especially a private one, being lopsided in its political preferences (which we are imperfectly measuring via campaign contributions). 

But I do find these results troubling in two ways.  First, if universities are going to lack balance in the perspectives that are represented on campus, they should be open and honest to prospective students and donors about that imbalance.  Like Christian colleges, they should declare their focus and priorities up front rather than pretending that they are inclusive of all views.

Second, I am troubled by the lack of diversity across institutions.  If the process by which we train, hire, and tenure academics is intellectually open and healthy, we should expect that at least some universities would contain a relatively even divide of political views and some would even be lopsided toward the Republicans.  The fact that we do not see this should make us worry about whether higher education is being hindered by an ideological cartel.  Not every unit or every college has to be balanced, but higher education as a whole should have greater ideological diversity if it is going to contribute to the intellectual progress of the country.

8 Responses to Political Donations from Academia

  1. ngilmour says:

    Things will change when rich parents stop shelling out the tuition money. Until then, these little numbers games don’t mean a thing.

  2. […] Jay Greene points out that not only are political donations from academia going almost exclusively to Democrats those donors also show an almost uniform preference for the junior Senator from Illinois. […]

  3. unastronaut. says:

    The problem being that academics shouldn’t be obligated to divide equally when they all feel correct on one side. Not to say they are or are not correct, but if you believe in freedom, the freedom of people to join a group of which you are not a part is also included.

    You cite Christian colleges, which might be a good example of where the majority might be flipped. As for declaring their bias, anyone who cannot detect bias or adequately evaluate sources probably has stepped into the wrong arena.

    I agree with ngilmour that parents paying for college hurts the actual product of the university system. I don’t know how many people I met at school who treated it as a 4-year party and their parents paid the cover charge. I don’t know that it directly affects these numbers, but it affects the quality and reputation of education.

  4. […] A fellow blogger points out that college professors give more to Democrats than to Republicans, (87% give to Democrats) and then points out that the college professor Democrats give more to Obama than to Clinton 74% to Obama). He also breaks it down by number of donors as well as dollar amounts. Here is Jay P Greene’s post. […]

  5. Larry Bernstein says:

    I think Jay’s point about a lack of political balance deserves further inquiry. Given the general population is split between Democrats and Republicans, and based on my cursory review of the Pew Research 2005 study (http://people-press.org/reports/display.php3?PageID=943), it appears that college educated individuals are probably more likely to be Republican than Democrat, then why is this particular subsample of educators so lopsided Democrat?

    I have a feeling that Republican graduate students either (i) drop out of the academic community because they feel persecuted, (ii) join the business community who are friendlier to their ideological views, or (iii) attend technical, business, or legal graduate programs which by their nature are less ideological.

    Needless to say if society has a desire to have ideological-free classrooms, we have clearly failed. In addition, during the tenure process, ideological positions are directly or indirectly considered, then we should expect this Democratic academic community to continue indefinitely.

  6. Shannon says:

    Honestly, in a democratic republic it is so pitiful that the waning conservative party has lost its way. Its voices are becoming thinning whines that are useless in attempting to unify America. Of course the erudite are giving to the democratic party. There is no way intelligent people are going to sit idly by while the conservative party attempts to dupe the uneducated populous upon which they preyed last time. It certainly is time for change.

    If we are fighting ideological wars both abroad and in our own country the end is near and frankly that depresses me.

  7. […] in comparison. This competence go a prolonged approach toward explaining Professor Jay Green’s startling findings in 2008 (Some things never change). It competence also explain most of a differently irregular […]

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