Pundits have feasted on Barack Obama’s recent musing that Pennsylvania’s rural citizens “cling” to their religion and guns out of embittered economic desperation. Thus far, they have focused on whether Obama is an elitist who views religion as a crutch and whose copy of the Constitution somehow lacks the Second Amendment.
More important, though, is whether Obama’s remarks reflect the emerging demographic transformation of the Democratic party from a bottom-up “party of the people” into a holding pen for all sorts of economic and educational elites. One way to test this is to look at who has been making presidential campaign contributions during the 2008 election cycle. Thanks to the way the Federal Election Commission collects this data, we can sort contributions according to a donor’s occupation or employer.
The Democrats’ penetration of America’s elites is evident when we look at how the two parties fare among those at the very top rungs of corporate America.
Through May 1, the Democratic presidential field has suctioned up a cool $5.7 million from the more than 4,000 donors who list their occupation as “CEO.” The Republicans’ take was only $2.3 million. Chief financial officers, general counsels, directors, and chief information officers also break the Democrats’ way by more than two-to-one margins. The Democrats’ advantage among “presidents” is a less dramatic but still significant $7.2 million to $6.1 million. And this isn’t new: In 2004 all but one of these categories of top corporate officers broke just as dramatically for the Democrats, the “presidents” being the exception.
Republicans do somewhat better further down the corporate food chain, but still lose the competition for contributions from executive vice presidents, vice presidents, and managers.
Wall Street firms, long a symbol of American elite accomplishment, also tilt decisively toward the Democrats. Employees in storied Wall Street institutions such as Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and Morgan Stanley have all favored the Democratic field by a large margin. Even both sides of the recent Bear Stearns/JP Morgan Chase deal choose Democratic candidates over Republicans by two-to-one margins.
Democrats also enjoy enormous fundraising advantages among well-educated professionals — lawyers, teachers, accountants, journalists and writers. They carry practitioners of the hard sciences, winning solidly among physicians ($8 million to $4 million), biologists, chemists, physicists, and plain old scientists. Republicans must settle for a slender advantage among rocket scientists.