Is Mark Zuckerberg a Democrat or a Republican?

Facebook Founder's Social Media Network Has a Huge Impact on Elections

Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and his company's political action committee have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to political campaigns. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News

Mark Zuckerberg says he's neither a Democrat nor a Republican. But his social media network, Facebook, has played a huge role in American politics, particularly the election of President Donald Trump in 2016.

The Facebook co-founder and his company's political-action committee have given tens of thousands of dollars to political candidates of both parties in recent years, a relatively small amount relative to the vast sums of money flowing through the election process.

And the billionaire’s spending on campaigns does not tell us much about his political affiliation, a topic of much speculation.

Zuckerberg did, however, give his largest one-time donation to the Democratic Party in San Francisco in 2015 when he cut a check for $10,000, according to Federal Election Commission records. And he has sharply criticized Republican President Donald Trump's immigration policies, saying he was "concerned" about the impact of the president's first executive orders.

"We need to keep this country safe, but we should do that by focusing on people who actually pose a threat," Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page. "Expanding the focus of law enforcement beyond people who are real threats would make all Americans less safe by diverting resources, while millions of undocumented folks who don't pose a threat will live in fear of deportation."

Zuckerberg's large donation to Democrats and his criticism of Trump have led some to the conclusion that the Facebook CEO is a Democrat.

But Zuckerberg did not contribute to anyone in the 2016 congressional or presidential races, not even Democrat Hillary Clinton. He also stayed out of the 2018 midterm elections, records show.

But Zuckerberg and Facebook have nonetheless come under intense scrutiny for the oversized influence the social media network plays in American political discourse, in particular its role in the 2016 president election.

The company has been criticized for allowing third parties to collect data about users, one of which had ties to the Trump campaign, and for allowing its platform to serve as a tool for Russian groups seeking to sow discord in American elections. Zuckerberg was called to testify in his own defense before members of Congress who had express concern for user privacy.

Campaign Contributions to Republicans and Democrats

Zuckerberg himself has contributed to: 

  • Sean Eldridge: Zuckerberg contributed the maximum $5,200 to the Republican U.S. House candidate’s campaign committee in 2013. Eldridge is husband of Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, according to the National Journal.
  • Orrin G. Hatch: Zuckerberg contributed the maximum $5,200 to the Republican U.S. senator from Utah’s campaign committee in 2013.
  • Marco Rubio: Zuckerberg contributed the maximum $5,200 to the Republican U.S. senator from Florida’s campaign committee in 2013.
  • Paul D. Ryan: Zuckerberg contributed $2,600 to the failed 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee and U.S. House member in 2014.
  • Charles E. Schumer: Zuckerberg contributed the maximum $5,200 to the Democratic U.S. senator from New York’s campaign committee in 2013.
  • Cory Booker: Zuckerberg also contributed $7,800 in 2013 to the prominent member of the Democratic Party and U.S. senator who is widely believed to be a leading candidate for president as soon as 2020. But Zuckerberg sought and received a full refund for unexplained reasons.

    Zuckerberg Isn't Affiliated With a Major Party

    Zuckerberg is registered to vote in Santa Clara County, California, but does not identify himself as being affiliated with the Republican, Democrat or any other party, according to a 2013 report in The Wall Street Journal. "I think it's hard to affiliate as being either a Democrat or a Republican. I'm pro knowledge economy," Zuckerberg said in September of 2016.

    Political Advocacy

    Zuckerberg is among the tech leaders behind FWD.us, or Forward U.S. The group is organized as a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization under Internal Revenue Service code. That means it can spend money on electioneering or make contributions to super PACs without naming individual donors.

    FWD.us spent $600,000 on lobbying for immigration reform in 2013, according to the Center For Responsive Politics in Washington, D.C.

    The group’s primary mission is to get policy makers to pass comprehensive immigration reform that includes, among other tenets, a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States who do not have legal status.

    Zuckerberg and many tech leaders are lobbying Congress to pass measures that would allow for more temporary visas to be issued to high-skilled workers. The contributions to individual members of congress or candidates listed above are examples of his support for those who back immigration reform.

    Zuckerberg, though he personally has contributed to Republican political campaigns, has said the FWD.us is nonpartisan. “We will work with members of Congress from both parties, the administration and state and local officials,” Zuckerberg wrote in The Washington Post. “We will use online and offline advocacy tools to build support for policy changes, and we will strongly support those willing to take the tough stands necessary to promote these policies in Washington.”

    Facebook Political Action Committee

    Zuckerberg is also a major contributor to Facebook’s political-action committee, called Facebook Inc. PAC. He’s given $25,000 to the PAC since 2011, according to federal records. The Facebook PAC raised nearly $350,000 in the 2012 election cycle. It spent $277,675 supporting federal candidates; Facebook spent more on Republicans ($144,000) than it did on Democrats ($125,000). 

    In the 2016 elections, Facebook PAC spent $517,000 supporting federal candidates.

    In all, 56 percent went to Republicans and 44 percent went to Democrats. In the 2018 election cycle, Facebook PAC spent $278,000 supporting candidates for federal office, mostly on Republicans, records show.

    Facebook's Role in the 2016 Election

    Facebook has drawn fire not for its or its founder's campaign contributions, however, but for its business practices.

    The company's largest controversy to date has been the disclosure, first reported by The New York Times, that a political consulting firm harvested the data of tens of millions of Facebook users, information that was later used to build psychological profiles of potential voters in 2016. The firm, Cambridge Analytica, worked for the Trump campaign in 2016. Its misuse of the data prompted internal investigations by Facebook and the suspension of about 200 apps.

    Facebook was also hammered by policymakers for allowing the proliferation of misinformation, often called fake news, across its platform - misinformation that was designed to disrupt the election process, government officials have said. A Kremlin-backed firm called the Internet Research Agency purchased thousands of derogatory Facebook ads as part of its "operations to interfere in elections and political processes,” federal prosecutors allege. Facebook did little, if anything, to discourage the spread of misinformation before and during the campaign.

    Zuckerberg and Facebook launched efforts to take down fake accounts and misinformation. The social media co-founder told members of Congress the company previously "didn't take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake.

    It was my mistake, and I'm sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I'm responsible for what happens here."

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    Murse, Tom. "Is Mark Zuckerberg a Democrat or a Republican?" ThoughtCo, May. 15, 2018, thoughtco.com/members-of-congress-supported-by-facebook-3367615. Murse, Tom. (2018, May 15). Is Mark Zuckerberg a Democrat or a Republican? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/members-of-congress-supported-by-facebook-3367615 Murse, Tom. "Is Mark Zuckerberg a Democrat or a Republican?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/members-of-congress-supported-by-facebook-3367615 (accessed May 27, 2018).