Sean McElwee

Co-Founder, Data for Progress
Areas of Expertise:
  • Race & Ethnicity
  • Civic Engagement
  • Democracy & Governance

About Sean

McElwee’s work focuses on the intersection of democracy and inequality. He explores voting inequalities across class, race and age and the effects of these inequalities on policy. He also explores race, class, age and gender disparities in campaign finance and how these biases distort policies. In addition, McElwee explores attitudes about race, particularly among whites.


The White Donor Class and City Policy in Chicago

No Jargon Podcast

In the News

"The Power of 'Abolish ICE'," Sean McElwee, The New York Times, August 4, 2018.
"How "Abolish ICE" Went From A Twitter Slogan To A Litmus Test," Sean McElwee, Interview with Steven Perlberg, Buzzfeed News, July 28, 2018.
Sean McElwee's research on leftist politics discussed in A.P. Joyce, "Where is the American "Great Middle" That James Comey is Talking About?," Mic, July 23, 2018.
Sean McElwee's research on leftist political movement discussed in Eve Peyser, "Leftists Explain Why They Love Cynthia Nixon," VICE, July 18, 2018.
"Talking Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Victory with Sean McElwee," Sean McElwee, Interview with Jordan Valerie Allen, Millenial Politics Podcast, July 5, 2018.
Sean McElwee's research on abolishing ICE discussed in Eliza Relman, "How a Left-Wing Rallying Cry Burst into the Mainstream as Trump Implements his Most Extreme Immigration Policy Yet," Business Insider, June 30, 2018.
"Democrats Must Stop Pretending the Supreme Court Is Apolitical," Sean McElwee, The Nation, June 26, 2018.
Sean McElwee's research on abolishing ICE discussed in Alex Daughtery, "South Florida Democrats lurch left with call to abolish ICE," Miami Herald, June 26, 2018.
Sean McElwee's research on abolishing ICE discussed in Alex Seitz-Wald, "'Abolish ICE!' is the New Rallying Cry for Progressive Democrats," NBC News, June 22, 2018.
"The Future Of The Democratic Party Is Being Decided Right Now," Sean McElwee, Huffington Post, June 6, 2018.
Sean McElwee quoted on progressive politics in Marie Solis, "Who is Kara Eastman? First-Time Female Candidates Stuns Democratic Establishment in Nebraska's Primaries" Newsweek, May 16, 2018.
Sean McElwee's research on voter turnout discussed in Ilana Novick, "Sanders Institute Offers a Fix for Our Abysmal Voter Turnouts," Truthdig, May 16, 2018.
Sean McElwee quoted on progressive ideas in Benjy Sarlin, "Fringe Liberal Ideas Move to Front-Burner for Democrats" NBC News, May 14, 2018.
Sean McElwee's research on Jon Allsop, "Voices on the Left are Rising in the US. Why Aren’t They in Mainstream Media?," Columbia Journalism Review, May 8, 2018.
"Democrats are in Denial about the Supreme Court," Sean McElwee, Huffington Post, May 4, 2018.
Sean McElwee quoted on Democratic support for a federal jobs guarantee in Marie Solis, "Can a Federal Jobs Guarantee Help Democrats Defeat Trump in 2020?" Newsweek, April 26, 2018.
Sean McElwee quoted on a federal jobs guarantee in Jake Johnson, "Embracing 'the Sort of Bold Thinking We Need,' Sanders to Introduce Plan to Guarantee Every American a Job" Common Dreams, April 23, 2018.
Sean McElwee quoted on creating progressive discourse in Sahil Kapur, "Democrats United against Trump but Torn on Election Agenda" Bloomberg Politics, April 18, 2018.
"How Racism Could Drive Support for War with Iran," Sean McElwee (with Jon Green), The Nation, April 6, 2018.
Sean McElwee quoted in Mark Joseph Stern, "Randy Bryce Wants to Abolish ICE" Slate, April 4, 2018.
Sean McElwee quoted in Gregory Krieg, "Cuomo Pushes to Reunite Party as Nixon Challenge Grows" CNN, April 4, 2018.
Sean McElwee quoted in David Colon, "Will IDC Challengers Ride Cynthia Nixon's Coattails?" City & State New York, April 2, 2018.
Sean McElwee quoted on "abolish ICE" movement in A.P. Joyce, "This Progressive Millennial Aims to Bring Change to America’s Wealthiest Congressional District" Mic, March 23, 2018.
"Why Democrats Should Embrace a Federal Jobs Guarantee," Sean McElwee (with Colin McAuliffe and Jon Green), The Nation, March 20, 2018.
Sean McElwee quoted in Paul Waldman, "Happy Hour Roundup" Washington Post, March 20, 2018.
Sean McElwee quoted in David Weigel, "'Medicare for All' Has Broad Support — but Pollsters Worry That it hasn't Been Tested" Washington Post, March 19, 2018.
Sean McElwee quoted , "Defenders of Free Speech Can't Disarm" Washington Examiner, March 19, 2018.
"It's Time to Abolish ICE," Sean McElwee, The Nation, March 13, 2018.
Sean McElwee's research on Eric Black, "Re-energizing Obama Supporters Who were Nonvoters in 2016 Seen as Best Path for Dems in '18," MinnPost, March 12, 2018.
Sean McElwee quoted in Peter Hasson, "Abolishing ICE Looks Likely to Become 2020 Campaign Issue for Democrats" The Daily Caller, March 9, 2018.
Sean McElwee quoted in Gregory Koger, "Polls Show Support for Gun Control is Widespread" Vox, March 5, 2018.
"Deficit Dummies," Sean McElwee, The Outline, March 1, 2018.
"How Employers Already Compel Speech from Workers," Sean McElwee, The Nation, February 27, 2018.
"Labor’s Lost: The Supreme Court’s Latest Union Case is Designed to Kneecap the Democratic Party," Sean McElwee (with Mark Joseph Stern), Slate, February 25, 2018.
Sean McElwee quoted in Kali Holloway, "Want to See Gun Control Enacted? Support a Movement to Arm Black Folks En Masse" AlterNet, February 16, 2018.
"Democrats Should Run on Gun Control All over the Country," Sean McElwee, Vice, February 16, 2018.
"The 2018 Democratic Wave is about More than Congress," Sean McElwee, Huffington Post, January 24, 2018.
"How the Right's War on Unions is Killing the Democratic Party," Sean McElwee, The Nation, January 22, 2018.
"These Democratic Senators Should be Afraid for Their Jobs," Sean McElwee (with Jon Green), VICE, January 22, 2018.
Sean McElwee quoted , "Oprah Winfrey: Who is She and What are her Political Beliefs?" Luxora Leader, January 10, 2018.
Sean McElwee quoted in Noah Smith, "Economists Should Care about the Racial Divide" Bloomberg, January 4, 2018.
"How Oregon Increased Voter Turnout More than Any Other State," Sean McElwee (with Jesse Rhodes and Brian Schaffner), The Nation, July 27, 2017.
"Why Did Trump Win? More Whites - and Fewer Blacks - Actually Voted.," Sean McElwee (with Jesse Rhodes, Bernard L. Fraga, and Brian Schaffner), The Washington Post, May 8, 2017.
"Fear of Diversity Made People More Likely to Vote Trump," Sean McElwee (with Jason McDaniel), The Nation, March 14, 2017.
"Is America More Divided by Race or Class?," Sean McElwee (with Jesse Rhodes and Brian Schaffner), The Washington Post, October 12, 2016.
Regular contributionsSean McElwee to Salon.
Regular contributionsSean McElwee to Al-Jazeera America.
"White Kids Aren't Buying the Politics of Racial Resentment," Sean McElwee (with Ashley Jardina), Gawker, May 11, 2016.
"The GOP’s Class Divide on Austerity," Sean McElwee, The Nation, February 19, 2016.
"To Influence Policy, You Have to be More Rich," Sean McElwee, Washington Monthly, February 16, 2016.
"There’s Powerful Evidence that Racial Attitudes Drive Tea Party Support," Sean McElwee (with Jason McDaniel), Vox, February 10, 2016.
"Republican Voters are More Pro-Climate Than You Might Think," Sean McElwee (with Brian Schaffner), Mother Jones, December 15, 2015.
"Why Non-Voters Matter," Sean McElwee, The Atlantic, September 15, 2015.
"The Income Gap at the Polls," Sean McElwee, Politico, January 7, 2015.
"5 Reasons Politics Doesn't Fix Inequality," Sean McElwee, Vox, August 31, 2014.


"Why the Voting Gap Matters," Demos, October 23, 2014.

Lays out the case that voters and non-voters have distinct preferences and that these differences have important implications for public policy. Makes the case for policies to increase turnout.

"How Chicago’s White Donor Class Distorts City Policy," Demos, April 28, 2016.

Uses a pioneering new method to explore the race, gender and income demographics of political donors. Shows that donors to Chicago elections are whiter and richer than the general population. Argues that donors in the mid-range are more diverse than the largest donors, while using survey data to show that donors from Chicago are more supportive of austerity.

"Why Voting Matters: Large Disparities in Turnout Benefit the Donor Class," Demos, September 16, 2015.

Examines American National Election Studies data to show that voters are more conservative on many core issues related to inequality and redistribution than non-voters. Analyzes Census Bureau data to show the deep class and race disparities in turnout. Includes a new review of the literature showing that turnout affects policy.