Yale professors donated almost exclusively to Democrats in 2023
Of the total contributions made by Yale professors, 98.4 percent went to Democratic-affiliated candidates and groups.
Ellie Park, Photography Editor
Nearly 100 percent of the money Yale professors donated to political campaigns went to Democrats in 2023.
The News analyzed over 5,000 Federal Elections Committee filings from 2023 with Yale University listed as an employer, 3,041 of which were professors. Professors donated a total of roughly $127,000, of which 98.4 percent went to Democratic candidates and groups.
“This year is not a normal election – the future of our democracy and perhaps the planet is on the line,” Barry Nalebuff, a Yale School of Management professor who donated $25,000 to the Biden Victory Fund, wrote the News.
In total, approximately 93 percent of total contributions by Yale employees went to Democrats. Professors accounted for about two-thirds of the roughly $200,000 contributed by Yale employees. Among non-professor employees – a group that includes a broad range of employees, such as lab directors, hospitality workers and police – approximately 85 percent of contributions went to Democratic candidates and groups.
This year’s data are in line with trends from previous years, according to data from opensecrets.org. The last time more than 10 percent of total faculty contributions went to Republicans was over 20 years ago, in 2002.
The figures reported by the News are likely lower than the actual figures due to FEC disclosure rules, which do not require contributions aggregating over $200 to identify the contributor’s employer. Some professors may also indicate an employer other than Yale.
The News was able to confirm at least one case of a professor whose actual contribution amount was higher than what was recorded on the dataset.
In addition, the News analyzed contribution data from the year 2023, an “off-year election” in which neither a presidential election nor a midterm election took place. Contributions are generally higher during election years, and they will likely increase in 2024 ahead of the presidential election.
Top donation destinations
Each of the top ten recipients of Yale professors’ money were Democratic-affiliated candidates or organizations.
Some recipients, like the Biden Victory Fund and the Democratic National Committee, received fewer than 50 contributions, but were driven by a handful of large contributors, such as Nalebuff.
Other recipients, such as ActBlue, a fundraising platform serving left-leaning and Democratic nonprofits and politicians, received 724 total contributions.
“I believe that the election of Trump would endanger the very democratic system that may allow him to be elected,” Jeffrey Alexander, a professor of sociology who donated $2,500 to the Democratic National Committee last year, wrote. “This danger motivates my contributions this year.”
ActBlue’s Republican counterpart, WinRed, received a total of $36 from three individual professors.
One of them, professor Zack Cooper, is a registered Democrat, but donated the minimum possible amount to candidates such as Nikki Haley and Chris Christie so that they could meet the minimum donor count threshold required to participate in the televised national debates, according to an email from Cooper.
The largest contribution to a Republican candidate was $1,000 to the Tim Scott for America campaign. Laura Niklason, an adjunct professor of Medicine who made the donation, described herself as a “lifelong supporter of reasonable conservative policies.”
Professors vs non-professor employees
Yale employees who are not professors were more likely than their professorial counterparts to donate to Republican-affiliated organizations or Independent PACs. Among non-professor employees, 31 donations were made to WinRed.
In particular, a large portion of non-professor employee money that did not go to Democratic-affiliated organizations went to independent PACs, which contribute to both Democratic and Republican campaigns. Many of these contributions came from non-professor employees at the Yale School of Medicine, who donated to health professional PACs, like the American College of OB-GYNS PAC.
“Yale is nearly fully disconnected from much of US society,” Edward A Snyder, a School of Management professor wrote, referring to the contributions made by professors. “The data speak for themselves.”
Still, the majority of non-professor University employees donated to Democratic causes, with ActBlue and Friends of Chris Murphy — a Democratic Connecticut senator — the top contribution recipients.
Just one Yale employee, a lab supervisor, donated to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
Political diversity in the classroom
When asked if diversity of political thought is a hiring consideration for Yale faculty, FAS Dean Tamar Gendler did not directly address the question, writing only that the FAS looks for scholars who are distinguished in their field and whose published work “extends the horizons” of their disciplines.
Carlos Eire, a professor of history and self-described conservative, said that he was “not surprised at all” by the 98.35 percent figure.
“Right now, it is extremely difficult for Yale or any other institution of higher learning to create greater political diversity,” he said. “American academia is an echo chamber when it comes to politics.”
According to Eire, most moderates and conservatives intentionally avoid pursuing academic careers, which he attributed to the imbalance of political views in American academia. He described this as a concern.
In some disciplines, he said, especially the humanities and social sciences, conservative scholars have a difficult time getting published or promoted.
Alexander cited the Trump campaign specifically as a catalyst for a high percentage of Democratic contributions.
“Trump is suspicious of cosmopolitanism and independent critical discussion and debate,” he said. “Yale, like most other universities, depends on cosmopolitanism and critical discussion.”
However, Alexander argued that the tendency for professors to support Democratic candidates does not influence their teaching.
He made a distinction between his obligations as a Yale-employed professor and as a U.S. citizen.
“I don’t indoctrinate Yale students to my particular ideology but, rather, encourage critical discussion of all points of view,” he said.
Richard Beals, a professor emeritus of mathematics, attributed the rising percentage of Democrat-contributing professors to the changing nature of the Republican party rather than the University.
“I am a lifelong Democrat, but my contributions have increased as the other party has become a dangerous, undemocratic cult,” Beals said. “Under these circumstances I expect that Yale professors who might once have been Republican or unaffiliated are now also supporting the Democratic Party.”
The Federal Election Commission was established in 1975.