Obama McCain Donor Occupation Analysis

By: Jeff Clark    Date: Mon, 15 Sep 2008

In the current US election there has been much discussion about Obama's advantage in campaign financing. In short, he is collecting much more money from donations than his rival, McCain. The Federal Election Commision has a wealth of data about the contributions made to all the campaigns. They provide details on each individual donor including name, address, employer, occupation, date of donation, and the amount donated. I have taken the contribution data for Obama and McCain and done some analysis focused on the occupations of the contributors.

This first graph shows which occupations contributed the most to the Obama and McCain campaigns. The top blue bar gives the total contributed to Obama from people of the corresponding occupation and the red shows the total contributed to McCain. The darker blue sections show the amount that contributions for Obama exceeded those of McCain for that profession. Similarly, the darker red sections show the amount that contributions to McCain exceeded those for Obama.

For example, the bars for 'attorney' show that they contributed ~ 23 million dollars to Obama and about 7 million to McCain. The darker rightmost portion of the blue bar makes it more visually obvious that contributions to Obama exceeded those to McCain by attorneys by a great margin. The occupations are sorted in the order of total contributions to both of the presidential candidates.

Some observations:

  • People listing their occupation as 'retired' contributed more money than any other
  • 44 of the top 50 occupations contributed more to Obama than McCain
  • Obama has a huge relative advantage in many occupations including 'unemployed', 'professor', 'student', 'lawyer', 'teacher', 'writer', 'artist', 'architect', 'software engineer', and 'registered nurse'
  • McCain did not have a huge relative advantage in any of the top 50 occupations
  • There were more contributions from 'student' than 'teacher' although 'professor' was higher than both

As noted in the second observation above there were very few occupations in the top 50 that contributed more to McCain. So what occupations did favour him ? The graph below shows which occupations contributed more to McCain than Obama and by how much. The scale seems too large for this data but I wanted to keep it consistent with the one on the next graph showing the same information for Obama.

Some observations on McCain's support:

  • None of these show a large absolute advantage for McCain compared the occupations listed on the comparable Obama graph shown below
  • Lots of business executive occupations - 'executive', 'chairman', 'chairman and ceo', 'president', and 'business executive'
  • Lots of oil related occupations - 'oil and gas', 'oil and gas producer', 'petroleum engineer', 'oil and gas exploration', 'oil and gas investments'
  • 'lobbyist' at #10, 'government affairs' at #24, 'campaign staff' at #25
  • 'beer distributor' , 'beer wholesaler' in the list. McCain's wife has a lot of wealth that came from the beer industry.
  • Support from 'farmer', 'rancher'
  • 'homemaker' seems slightly anamolous but the relative edge for McCain was slight

The comparable graph for Obama is below at the same scale.


Some observations from this graph:

  • Strong support from the legal industry - 'attorney', 'lawyer', 'law professor'
  • Strong support from academic professions - 'professor', 'teacher', 'student', 'educator'
  • Strong support from health-related professions - 'physician', 'psychologist', 'registered nurse'
  • Strong support from the creative class - 'writer', 'artist', 'architect', 'designer', 'actor', 'photographer', 'musician', 'actress'
  • Support from some executive classes - 'chief executive officer', 'executive director', 'managing director'
  • A greater contribution advantage from 'unemployed' than any other occupation except for 'attorney'

In conclusion, this data shows that Obama has a large contribution advantage across virtually all classes of occupations with the exceptions of some high-level business executives, the oil and gas industry, the beer industry, farmers, ranchers, and homemakers.



Some notes on methodology:

The data available at the time of this analysis includes contributions up to July 31st, 2008. I have combined a few obvious occupation spelling variations together. For example, 'home maker' has been combined with 'homemaker', and 'cpa' and 'certified public accountant' combined with 'accountant'. Several high-level executive occupations have been combined into 'executive' - namely 'coo', 'chief operating officer', 'cio', 'cfo', 'exec', and 'cto'. There are many other variations that could plausibly be combined - 'doctor' with 'physician' or 'attorney' with 'lawyer' for example. If anyone wants to verify my analysis and is interested in the complete list of combinations I used just send me an email.


Convention Speech Sentence Bars
Average Campaign Donation by Occupation