Obama Outpacing Rivals Among Academics, Educators
by Max Fletcher, Sat Aug 11, 2007 at 08:55:46 AM EDT
The Politico has an article up today analyzing political contributions from academic institutions and the education community, a constituency whose political behavior is often taken for granted and therefore typically does not draw much analysis from the mainstream media. The article is based on a study conducted by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics and available on the Open Secrets website.
This appears to be yet another unique area from which Obama draws strength, and The Politico even took the time to come up with a clever title to reflect that:
Professors have a crush on Obama
Barack Obama appears to be winning the faculty lounge straw poll -- his presidential campaign is cultivating academics and pacing the field in collecting cash from them.
Obama, whose website features an "Academics for Obama" page, raised nearly $1.5 million in the first half of the year from people who work for colleges and universities, according to an analysis of campaign finance data by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. And that's 55 percent more than the $939,000 brought in by the next biggest professor's pet, fellow Democratic senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.
Obama's nearly $1.5 million figure represents just over 21% of the $7 million total given to all Presidential campaigns from both parties so far this cycle. The education community is an important constituency, especially in Democratic Party politics. Via Open Secrets:
Virtually all the money in this category comes from individuals, as school districts, colleges and universities rarely form PACs. This doesn't mean they're not players in Washington, however. Education interests ranked No. 3 on the list of top industries to Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry during the 2004 cycle, with $8.4 million.
As mentioned in the excerpt above, Hillary Clinton comes in second with $938,700 in donations from education, performing disproportionately bad against Obama among teachers and professors in comparison to total fundraising. The same is true of the $247,411 total that Edwards collected from the "industry." The top Republicans in terms of donations from the academic and educational world were Mitt Romney at $448,030 and Rudy Giuliani at $366,350 (not surprisingly, Democrats do much better among academics and educators than Republicans).
There are a few different explanations for Obama's dominance among scholars. It is generally commented that he comes off as the most cerebral of the candidates on the campaign trail, and not just because he wasn't dumb enough to champion the Iraq war. The way he answers questions--often in great detail and with honest, intellectual justification--has drawn both criticism and praise, because while he can seem both smart and genuine, he can also be long-winded and needlessly indirect. He may simply be viewed as the smartest of the candidates, having been President of the Harvard Law Review and a Constitutional Law lecturer at one of the nation's most prestigious academic institutions. Another possible explanation is that teachers and professors feel a certain kinship with "one of their own," a variation on "identity politics" stemming from Obama's tenure at the University of Chicago from 1993-2004. Also, there is a possibility that the excitement among professors and teachers is partially influenced by the great excitement among the students they teach. Finally, it is certainly possible (and perhaps likely) that professors are supporting Obama for a more implicit reason, or for a combination of many of the explanations offered above and others left unmentioned. Larry Sabato takes a stab at guessing why he is popular at universities:
he seems to have "a special appeal among academics, particularly those at four-year institutions," said University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato.
"Even at places like UVA, which are more conservative than most, it's overwhelmingly Obama," said Sabato, asserting academics see Obama's candidacy as one of change and a test of the nation's tolerance. "You have some feminists who are supporting Hillary Clinton, but that is really the only demographic supporting her, which is quite surprising."
Whatever the case, it seems Obama is emerging as the candidate of the academics. It would be interesting to see how support divides among university faculty and pre-K-12 teachers.
Finally, here's the total figures for contributions from the education industry to each campaign. Note the large gaps between Obama and Clinton and Clinton and Romney.
Barack Obama: $1,459,027
Hillary Clinton: $938,700
Mitt Romney: $448,030
Rudy Giuliani: $366,350
John Edwards: $247,411
Bill Richardson: $214,260
John McCain: $158,590
Chris Dodd: $127,016
Joe Biden: $75,500
Sam Brownback: $23,097
Ron Paul: $20,755
Tom Vilsack: $20,350
Mike Huckabee: $16,700
Dennis Kucinich: $13,600
Tom Tancredo: $6,525
Duncan Hunter: $4,450
Jim Gilmore: $2,300
Mike Gravel: $400
Available at Opensecrets