Following the Money: Stanford Faculty Overwhelmingly Favors Obama

Data from the Center for Responsive Politics’ website, opensecrets.org, confirm that the Stanford Faculty overwhelmingly favored Obama and liberal causes over John McCain and Republicans in the past election cycle. According to the data, in the past election, Stanford Professors donated $356,048 to the Barack Obama campaign and only $8,200 to John McCain’s campaign. The donations to Obama were spread throughout the university as 246 professors from 41 different departments and graduate schools made such contributions. Opensecrets.org also reports that Stanford as an organization was the 9th largest donor to the Obama campaign—ahead of Time Warner, Morgan Stanley, IBM Corp, and Columbia University.

Broadening the results to the entire election, the Stanford faculty donated $568,720 to Democratic candidates, and only $15,650 to Republicans. To compare to some other elite schools, Harvard donated $542,720 to Democrats and $30,551 to Republicans. Looking at a non-Ivy elite school, the faculty at Duke University donated $149,347 to Democrats and $23,850 to Republicans. While each of these schools exhibits an overwhelming preference for Democratic candidates, it is worth noticing that the ratio of Democrat to Republican donations was the most extreme at Stanford.

What is more surprising than the abundance of Obama contributions is the nearly complete lack of McCain contributions. There were only 3 reported donors to the McCain campaign—one law professor, one med school professor, and one economics professor. The 246 to 3 ratio raises some questions as to the bias of the University.

Still, it is important to recognize that this data is not entirely complete. The names and organizations of contributors only become public record for those donations exceeding $200. It could be that many more conservative Stanford professors did not want their names attached to the McCain campaign due to social pressures and therefore donated $199 dollars to keep donations private or chose not to donate at all. The vast majority of Stanford professors did not have reported campaign contributions, and we have no indication based on this research as to their political leanings. Moreover, because the legal obligation to report the occupation of the donor is on the campaign rather than the contributor, it is possible that some money is missing from the data. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, campaigns do not always accurately verify the occupations of contributors 100% of the time.

However, the overwhelming abundance of Obama donations, and nearly complete lack of McCain donations at Stanford does seem apparent. Public campaign money should not be equated with voting records, but it provides an indication of how the political leanings of the faculty are. It could be that there are undocumented Republican supporters, but the overall cultural climate of the university does not support them at the moment.

Subscribe to the Stanford Review