Is Mark Zuckerberg a Democrat or a Republican?

Mark Zuckerberg addresses a crowd with a microphone

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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 Donald Trump in 2016. Four years later, the entrepreneur said Facebook would take a different approach to the 2020 election cycle, including how it handles free speech.

During a June 26, 2020, livestream, Zuckerberg announced plans for Facebook to combat voter suppression, implement standards for hateful ad content, and label news content so users know it's legitimate. He also shared the company's intention to flag certain posts that violate its content standards but remain on the platform.

"Even if a politician or government official says it, if we determine that content may lead to violence or deprive people of their right to vote, we will take that content down," he said. "Similarly, there are no exceptions for politicians in any of the policies I'm announcing here today."

Zuckerberg discussed these changes after civil rights groups called for an advertiser boycott of Facebook for allowing "hate speech" on the site. The company was roundly criticized for not removing or flagging a post in which President Donald Trump said "when the looting starts, the shooting starts" in response to Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the May 25, 2020, police killing of unarmed Black man George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Zuckerberg Not 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, Democratic, or any other party, The Wall Street Journal has reported.

"I think it's hard to affiliate as being either a Democrat or a Republican. I'm pro-knowledge economy," Zuckerberg said in September 2016.

The social media mogul has met with politicians on both sides of the aisle, including Donald Trump, 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, and conservative commentators and journalists.

Facebook Political Action Committee

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 given the vast sums of money flowing through the election process. Yet the billionaire’s spending on campaigns does not say much about his political affiliation.

Zuckerberg is a major contributor to Facebook’s political action committee, called Facebook Inc. PAC. The Facebook PAC raised nearly $350,000 in the 2012 election cycle, spending $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% went to Republicans and 44% went to Democrats. In the 2018 election cycle, Facebook PAC spent $278,000 supporting candidates for federal office, mostly on Republicans, records show. 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.

Criticism of Trump Fueling Speculation

Zuckerberg has sharply criticized President 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 stated on Facebook. "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 criticism of Trump has sparked speculation that he's 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. Still, Zuckerberg and Facebook have come under intense scrutiny for the social network's outsized influence on American political discourse, especially its role in the 2016 election.

A History of 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. The group’s primary mission is to get policymakers 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.

Zuckerberg and many tech leaders have lobbied Congress to pass measures that would allow for more temporary visas to be issued to high-skilled workers. His contributions to congresspeople and other politicians illustrate how he supports lawmakers who back immigration reform.

Although Zuckerberg has contributed to Republican political campaigns, he has said that 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.”

Contributions to Republicans and Democrats

Zuckerberg himself has contributed to the campaigns of multiple politicians. Both Republicans and Democrats have received political donations from the tech mogul, but Federal Election Commission records indicate that his contributions to individual politicians dried up circa 2014.

  • Sean Eldridge: Zuckerberg contributed the maximum $5,200 to the Republican House candidate’s campaign committee in 2013. Eldridge is the husband of Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, according to the National Journal.
  • Orrin G. Hatch: Zuckerberg contributed the maximum $5,200 to the Republican senator from Utah’s campaign committee in 2013.
  • Marco Rubio: Zuckerberg contributed the maximum $5,200 to the Republican senator from Florida’s campaign committee in 2013.
  • Paul D. Ryan: Zuckerberg contributed $2,600 to the failed 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee and then-House member in 2014.
  • Charles E. Schumer: Zuckerberg contributed the maximum $5,200 to the Democratic senator from New York’s campaign committee in 2013.
  • Cory Booker: Zuckerberg contributed $7,800 in 2013 to the Democratic senator who later became a 2020 presidential candidate. Then, for unexplained reasons, Zuckerberg sought and received a full refund.
  • Nancy Pelosi: Zuckerberg contributed $2,600 in 2014 to the campaign of the Democratic congresswoman who has twice served as speaker of the House.
  • John Boehner: Zuckerberg contributed $2,600 in 2014 to the campaign of the then-Republican House Speaker.
  • Luis V. Gutiérrez: Zuckerberg contributed $2,600 in 2014 to the campaign of the then-Democratic congressman.

Facebook's Role in the 2016 Election

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

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."

Additional References

View Article Sources
  1. "Facebook Inc." Center for Responsive Politics.

  2. Flocken, Sarah, and Rory Slatko."Facebook Turns 10, 'Leaning In' to Washington." Center for Responsive Politics, 5 Feb. 2014.

  3. "Individual Contributions - Mark Zuckerberg." Federal Election Commission.