As the races for the Republican and Democratic presidential nominations heat up, data from the Federal Elections Commission indicate that faculty and administrators at Yale — and at the country’s other top universities — have a decidedly left-wing bent.
Yale professors and administrators have raised a total of just over $111,000 for official presidential campaigns this election cycle, with the vast majority of that figure — over $96,000 — going to Hillary Clinton LAW ’73, the Democratic frontrunner. Sen. Bernie Sanders, her challenger in the Democratic primaries, has received $5,700 from Yale faculty and administrators. Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig LAW ’89, whose short-lived campaign focused on campaign finance reform, received $4,200. The FEC only collects data about donations to official presidential campaigns, with donations to super PACs remaining confidential.
Data from four other top universities — Columbia, Stanford, Princeton and Harvard — show similar trends, with faculty overwhelmingly donating to Democratic candidates and especially to Clinton. While Clinton has been widely lauded for her experience in public service, Yale faculty interviewed also cited personal experience with the candidate as a reason for their support — perhaps unsurprisingly, given Clinton’s ties with the University.
Sanders has often claimed on the campaign trail that his campaign tends to receive small donations from a large number of people, as opposed to Clinton’s campaign, which he says is fueled by big donations from wealthy individuals. At Yale, the trend is similar: 19 faculty members and administrators gave an average of $300 to Sanders’ campaign; the 59 faculty members and administrators who donated to Clinton gave an average of $1,650.
Numerous faculty members, especially in the Law School, contributed $2,700 — the maximum donation that a campaign can use during a primary — to the Clinton cause. These donors included law professors Amy Chua, Jed Rubenfeld, Ian Ayres ’81 LAW ’86 and Cristina Rodriguez ’95 LAW ’00. Former Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh, who worked with Clinton at the State Department, gave $2,975 to her campaign, although Clinton is not allowed to use the excess $275 unless she secures the Democratic nomination. Silliman College Associate Master Erika Christakis was among the members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences who gave the $2,700 primary maximum.
Koh said his decision to back Clinton was based on his experience working as her legal advisor at the State Department from 2009 to 2013. He said he was “daily impressed” by Clinton’s ability and intelligence.
“On a personal level, she is unfailingly warm, decent and straightforward, and she has extraordinary command of every facet of public policy,” Koh said.
Yale cardiologist Steven Wolfson said he supports Clinton, whom he described as “remarkable,” and praised her as a representative of women. Wolfson contributed $850 to her campaign.
Other professors interviewed explained the Yale faculty’s overwhelming support for the Democratic nominees, and Clinton in particular, as a product of the faculty’s left-leaning tendencies.
“This isn’t our first rodeo. Most Yale faculty are liberal, and many of us have seen and experienced the shock of Democrats losing the presidency because of being too far to the left,” sociology professor Jeffrey Alexander, who donated $350 to Clinton’s campaign, said. “I would love to see a fuller welfare state in the U.S., and steps to create more income and wealth equality, which would come about if Bernie Sanders actually were able to get his campaign planks turned into law. I am pretty convinced, however, that Sanders would be chopped and diced during a general election campaign.”
He added that Sanders’ label as a socialist candidate would decrease his chances of winning in November, even if he were nominated.
Nancy Stanwood, a professor at the School of Medicine, said she is a lifelong Democrat because she supports the party’s agenda to support the poor and middle class and protect women’s reproductive rights, adding that she backs Clinton because she is the most qualified and seasoned candidate in the race.
Only three Yale faculty members gave to Republicans. Laura Niklason, a professor at the Yale School of Medicine, gave $2,500 to Sen. Marco Rubio’s campaign, the largest donation to a Republican from a Yale affiliate. School of Management Dean Edward Snyder gave $1,000 to Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and medical school professor Adrian Maung contributed $250 to the candidacy of Ben Carson ’73, who is a former member of the Yale Corporation.
Faculty members at other elite universities showed similar donation tendencies. At Stanford, where faculty members and administrators raised $156,000 for all candidates, 77 donors contributed a total of $127,000 to Clinton. Sanders raised only $5,600 from 24 people affiliated with the Palo Alto-based university. And just like at Yale, Clinton donors gave more — an average of $1,650 — compared to $230 for Sanders donors. Only 12 Stanford faculty members gave to a Republican.
Columbia displayed similar numbers for Clinton donations: $75,000 of the $96,000 raised overall went to the former secretary of state, with an average donation size similar to Stanford’s. Sanders received donations from 21 faculty members, while Republicans received donations from only eight.
Harvard skewed the most heavily pro-Clinton of the five universities examined. Sanders received only $3,290 from Harvard faculty members — not only significantly less than Clinton’s $118,000, but also much less than the nearly $9,000 donated altogether to Republican candidates Rubio, former Gov. Jeb Bush and Gov. Chris Christie. Harvard and Stanford were the only schools at which donations to Republicans outpaced donations to Sanders.
Princeton’s faculty bucked the trend in this comparison, both for its relative inactivity in the presidential election donations and for its support of Sanders. Of the 22 faculty members listed on the FEC data, 11 donated to Clinton, while 10 donated to Sanders. Carly Fiorina received $350 from one donor. Still, Sanders received significantly less monetary support — $2,980 compared to Clinton’s $11,650
Sanders recently became the first Jew to win a presidential primary after his 22-percentage-point victory over Clinton in New Hampshire.