Obama sees immense lead in professor donations
By Heather Szilagyi
Published on Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Donations to U.S. President Barack Obama’s campaign from faculty members across the Ivy League greatly outstrip those given to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign by margins as high as 41:1 at Yale University, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. Romney raised $1,000 from Dartmouth employees, and while this amount is double the contributions from employees of Brown University, it pales in comparison to the $17,075 Obama has raised from College faculty members, Bloomberg reported.
Professors, administrators and other employees of Ivy League colleges and universities have donated a total of $375,932 to Obama and $60,465 to Romney, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington watchdog group that tracks campaign finance issues.
Romney held a slight edge over Obama only at Harvard Business School, whose faculty and staff donated $14,000 to him and $11,400 to Obama, Businessweek reported.
One significant difference between this election cycle and the previous one is that the banks and financial industries that were in favor of Obama in 2008 are now staunch Romney supporters, government professor John Carey said.
Professors interviewed by the Dartmouth said that College faculty members and members of academia in general are more likely to support Obama than Romney.
While American conservatives have frequently criticized academia as being left-leaning, it is surprising that the donation gap is so large, Carey said.
“One of the things I’m always struck by is that usually that critique is aimed primarily at the humanities and social sciences, but when I talk to colleagues in the sciences, they’re at least as left-leaning as the social sciences,” he said.
Whether it is a result of self-selection or the culture of colleges and universities themselves, all of academia tends to be more left-leaning than the population as a whole, economics professor Meir Kohn said.
Academic donation bias is a long-standing trend, but part of the reason for the current gap between Obama and Romney is that a polarizing primary season is coming to a close, he said.
The nature of academia itself also plays a role, according to Carey.
“A strong part of the right and Republican party has a kind of anti-intellectual populism to it,” Carey said. “If you’re running in the Republican primary, it’s suicide to say things like, ‘I believe in evolution, and creationism is bunk.’ But you’re not going to find many people on a university campus who are willing to entertain that as a viable position.”
Citing the economic and geographic demographics of university professors as one factor explaining the partisan divide, religion professor Susan Ackerman also noted religious differences as a reason for the donation gap.
Republican voters tend to be more concerned with religious traditions, particularly more conservative Christian denominations, while university employees are not generally as religiously active, she said.
Kohn, who describes himself as a libertarian and generally donates to Republicans, said that academia’s politically biased nature has a harmful effect on education, particularly in the humanities departments.
“One of the reasons I’ve been donating is to make the statistics a little better for Dartmouth,” Kohn said, adding that he wanted to make the College look “a little less lopsided.”
Kohn said that the trend of high levels of donations to Democrats from academia has most likely peaked and that he expects the trend to slowly reverse.
Carey said he tends not to discuss his personal political beliefs in class in case it makes students with opposing views feel that their ideas are not valued. While he said he could not mention anyone in the department with a different perspective, he said he believes it is interesting to debate politics in academia.
“On one hand, it’s kind of perverse to not talk about partisanship in a government department,” Carey said. “We talk about it in the abstract and analyze it. I think you can make a strong case that partisan views have a place in the classroom.”
Kohn said that Dartmouth professors are relatively moderate compared to other institutions such as Yale, which has a high number of extremely partisan individuals, he said.
Ackerman, who said she donated to Obama in 2008 and plans to do so this year, said she could not imagine Dartmouth professors trying to politically influence their students, but that she makes a point of encouraging her students to vote on election day.