Obama Outpacing Rivals Among Academics, Educators

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

Tags: 2008 president, academia, Barack Obama, constituency, Education (all tags)



Re: Obama Outpacing Rivals Among Academics, Educat

Sorry if this seems asinine to anyone, but I found it kind of interesting. One of the reasons I support Obama is I feel he is the most intellectually capable of handling the job.

Another interesting group that Obama is doing well with is the followers of the Maharishi in Iowa.

by Max Fletcher 2007-08-11 08:59AM | 0 recs
Obama Outpacing Rivals Among Academics

Is this good or bad for Obama?

In several recent Presidential elections, the only group the Democrats won were voters with post-graduate degrees. A majority with college-only degrees or less voted Republican.

This has been a serious problem for the Democrats and speaks to the need to broaden the Democratic message beyond the "pointy-headed elites" as academics would be characterized in the popular media.

To compete on the national stage, the Democrats must be the party of the middle class.

by hwc 2007-08-11 09:12AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Outpacing Rivals Among Academics

I don't think it's ever a bad thing to have the support of any demographic, unless it's white supremacists or anti-semites or something. Teachers and professors certainly don't fall into the "bad" category by my standards.

And I don't think teachers/professors and the middle class are mutually exclusive (indeed, most people in the education field are part of the middle class). It's pretty illogical to think that having support from the education community hampers the ability to draw support elsewhere.

by Max Fletcher 2007-08-11 09:23AM | 0 recs
too brainy a common problem for Democrats

How is it illogical? The theme of the Republican campaigns against John Kerry, Al Gore and Michael Dukakis were that they were too smart to understand regular Americans. Bill Clinton, who used his bubba image to defeat the caricature, is the only Democrat to win in the past 25 years. It is easy for Republicans to caricature a candidate who is perceived as the favorite of intellectuals, just as  Democrats caricature Republicans as tools of the rich. Attacking elitism is one of the most effective techniques for turning voters against a candidate.

The problem for Obama is that intellectuals are one of very few demographics where he gets majority support.

by souvarine 2007-08-11 10:00AM | 0 recs
Re: too brainy a common problem for Democrats

Well, he's beating every single Republican in the head to head matchups. He polls better than Clinton and Edwards against Giuliani, Romney, Thompson, and better than Clinton against McCain (Edwards polls better than Obama against McCain, but really, is McCain going to be the nominee?). See for yourself.

And yes, the Republicans have, since the 1950s, sought to marginalize academia and associate the Democrats with pointy-headed liberal/socialist professors with foreign names.

What is illogical is to claim that it is necessarily the case that support from teachers and professors is a negative. It is even more illogical to claim that Obama is alienated from the middle class in a way that will damage him with the American people when he does better in general election polling than both Clinton and Edwards.

by Max Fletcher 2007-08-11 10:15AM | 0 recs
Re: too brainy a common problem for Democrats

Sure he beats them now, Kerry, Gore and Dukakis looked great in the polls against the Bushes at various points during the campaign. The question isn't "is Obama alienated from the middle class", all of the above mentioned Democrats were substantively much better on middle class issues than the Bushes. The question is how does Obama defeat the caricature.

Obama's support from intellectuals is not in and of itself a problem, it is a symptom. Obama has their support because of his thoughtful and abstract critique of contemporary politics. His signature issue, other than Iraq, is campaign finance reform, the kind of good government issue that appeals to editorial writers and academics. It is those aspects of his appeal that could kill his chances with the rest of America.

by souvarine 2007-08-11 11:02AM | 0 recs
Academic supporters

The GOPers are going to try and smear our candidate as a pointy-headed, out-of-touch, elite if they can.  I don't know that they can with Obama. I'm sure they can't with Edwards.  Don't see them taking that line with Clinton.

I am an academic as are most of my friends and my professional life has been mostly working at universities.  I am certainly not anti-intellectual, but I do not take my cues about how to vote from academics.  Being a space scientist or a linguist or a comparative literature professor, or whatever, is great and I admire all teachers and researchers.  Doesn't mean I think we have some Delphic insight into politics or even the most desirable directions for the country.  Indeed, I tend to think liberal academics can be among the most self-deluded folks around, but I don't want to start a fight inside my own home.

The reason that I liked Obama in the HRC/Logo debate, despite disagreeing with his answers, and it kind of pains me to say this, is that I liked his style and demeanor.  He listened, he thought about questions, he answered questions, he educated without being a pompous bore.

He doesn't have my vote, but I thought Edwards, best on the issues discussions in the debate (among the leaders) came off as too eager and Clinton too slick - please these are all just subjective gut reactions and I thought all three acquited themselves quite well overall.  Edwards and Clinton struck me both as wound up, though she masked it better.

by Trond Jacobsen 2007-08-11 10:22AM | 0 recs
Re: Academic supporters

I thought it was interesting that the article focused on professors when the donations were apparently coming from anyone who listed "education" as their profession. It would have been interesting to see them break it down between school teachers and University people.

I definitely agree with you on the "demeanor" thing, as inconsequential as it may seem. To me, Edwards and Clinton usually just seem to be rattling off pre-determined talking points and not really engaging with the questions and the people asking them in the same way Obama does

by Max Fletcher 2007-08-11 11:00AM | 0 recs
Re: Academic supporters

Gallup has a great breakdown of Obama's favorability by education level. It does not have the exact breakdown you are looking for, but it is interesting.

by souvarine 2007-08-11 11:06AM | 0 recs
Obama has the rare combination of

being smart/intellectual AND naturally charismatic and likeable like a Michael Jordan or a Tiger Woods (to mention two black persons with the same kind of crossover appeal).

by Populism2008 2007-08-11 12:27PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama has the rare combination of
"intellectual AND naturally charismatic"
I think that explains his appeal to academics a lot. He thinks about things the way we do, so we identify. But he presents himself in a way we can only wish for.
by De Re Rustica 2007-08-11 03:51PM | 0 recs
Now Obama just needs to get a lead -- somewhere

But where?

He is coming close to running  a vanity campaign.

by dpANDREWS 2007-08-11 08:27PM | 0 recs


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