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VA: University faculty, staff overwhelmingly donate to Obama

By   /   August 8, 2012  /   2 Comments

By Kathryn Watson | Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau

Faculty and staff members at Virginia’s public universities have overwhelmingly given to President Barack Obama over presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

ALEXANDRIA — If dollars were votes, employees at Virginia’s publicly funded colleges and universities would have re-elected President Barack Obama by a landslide.

While they have donated more than $100,000 to Obama’s campaign, they’ve given just a little more than $11,000 to presumptive GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau study revealed.

Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau analyzed 2012 presidential campaign contributions at OpenSecrets.org, a nonpartisan database of national, state and local campaign finances.

Professors tend to attribute their left-wing politics to their intelligence, said Daniel Klein, an economist at George Mason University in Fairfax, who co-authored a series of essays titled The Politically Correct University for the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. Several George Mason scholars have led some of the most comprehensive national work on professors’ politics.

Daniel Klein

“I think most of them think that being smart leads you to be a leftist,” Klein said. “And so they sort of do associate smartness with being left.”

That doesn’t mean left-of-center professors are naïve enough to think all people on the left are smart — only that all people on the right are dumb, he added. Klein, who identifies himself as a classic liberal or libertarian thinker, said he hasn’t voted Republican a day in his life.

At the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, the state’s largest employer, employees gave $62,000 to Obama and $2,000 to Romney. George Mason University was the biggest Romney donor at $7,200, compared with $16,775 for the sitting president.

Faculty and staff at 12 of the commonwealth’s 15 public four-year institutions made donations to Obama, while more than half of those universities had no record of contributions to Romney. Public universities Longwood University in Farmville, Christopher Newport University in Newport News and UVA’s College at Wise showed no record of donations for either.

Virginia’s numbers follow a nationwide pattern in numbers analyzed in July by Colorado Watchdog, one of Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau’s sister operations. Among 27 of the nation’s top publicly funded universities, only employees at the University of Kentucky gave more to Romney than to Obama.

Klein suggested the left lopsidedness is partly the politics of the majority at play. Once a group, say the history department at UVA, has a majority, faculty members are likely to continue to discriminate — intentionally and unintentionally — and hire like-minded people, he said. At the same time, non-left prospective professors are less likely to apply where they don’t think they’re welcome.

“If you’re wearing certain colors, and people of those colors when they go up over the hill are going to be shot at, then you don’t go up out of the trench into the fire, into the hail of bullets, right?” asked Klein. “So you really can’t separate the self-sorting from the gunfire, as it were.”

Robert Lichter

Robert Lichter, communications professor at George Mason, co-authored a controversial 2005 study of 1,643 full-time faculty at 183 four-year schools, concluding that conservatives — particularly social conservatives — were constrained to less-prestigious universities. Lichter said he believes the selection is more of a natural process of “likes selecting likes,” not a conscious discrimination.

“There really is a culture clash that makes it more difficult for conservatives to move ahead in a world that is somewhat alien to them,” Lichter said.

Solon Simmons, an assistant professor at George Mason’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, and Harvard University sociology professor Neil Gross surveyed more than 1,400 full-time professors at 927 American institutions in 2004. Less than 20 percent identified themselves as some variation of conservative, compared with nearly 32 percent of the American public at the time. More than 62 percent of professors identified themselves as some shade of liberal, compared with more than 23 percent of the American public.

The left bent was most blatant among the social sciences, with about 80 percent of history and psychology professors at the bachelor level claiming to be Democrats. In a select few fields, like accounting and business administration, more professors identified themselves as Republican than Democrat.

Solon Simmons

On the whole, Simmons suggested that some fields attract a certain kind of character, and those people come to “represent the occupation.” That’s been the case for the occupation of professor, he said.

“This process moves along in a virtuous or vicious spiral, depending on your point of view, and the occupation takes on a politically coded image,” Simmons wrote in an email.

Klein said the ratio of Democratic professors to Republicans in the social sciences and humanities was around 4-to-1 50 years ago. Now, it’s more like 8-to-1.

Why was there a 4-1 ratio in the first place? Klein said that’s a tough question to answer, but it has something to do with academics’ view of the universe as something to be conquered.

If people can know all there is to be known, then people in government should know how to make proper choices. But those who adhere to classic liberalism — not modern liberalism — think people can only rarely know enough to intervene beneficially. Academics usually resent that idea, he said.

“If you’re an intellectual, you think you’re just a smarty pants and supposed to know stuff and answer problems, but in (classical) liberalism, you’re sort of supposed to butt out,” Klein said.

Lichter said two equally intelligent people motivated by different incentive structures are attracted to different spheres — one to the business world, and the other to academia. The business world is built on financial incentives, while academia prizes intellectual prestige.

Academics, who get to live in a “world of pure thought,” can easily be critics of society, maybe with a bias against “bourgeois values,” Lichter said.

“There has been a lot of criticism of intellectuals per say as a category of people who kind of get carried away with their own ideas and sometimes get out of touch with reality – practical reality, let’s say,” said Lichter. “And I’m not saying that’s necessarily true of liberal academics, I’m just saying you’re in a different world from the workaday world of ordinary people. And I think it’s easier to feel like you’re up above that world and are … in a better position to criticize it when you’re a professor.”

Klein said research suggests that students aren’t overwhelmingly swayed by their professors’ political bent. But whether they buy into, he said students are losing out on the “good stuff,” like economists Milton Friedman and Adam Smith. And if they do hear about them, it’s from a “straw-man,” “warped” perspective, he added.

But will the left-leaning bent ever reverse? Klein doesn’t think so.

“I don’t see how the heck that can be undone,” he said.

Contact Katie Watson at katie@olddominionwatchdog.org or 571-385-0773. 

 

Total donations by university employees through July 21, 2012: 

Obama: $102,057

Romney: $11,450

 

Radford University

Obama: $250

Romney: $0

 

Longwood University

No records found for either candidate

 

University of Virginia

Obama: $62,342

Romney: $2,000

 

Old Dominion University

Obama: $750

Romney: No records found

 

Norfolk State University

Obama: $2,750

Romney: No records found

 

Christopher Newport University

No records found for either candidate

 

James Madison University

Obama: $700

Romney: $500

 

George Mason University

Obama: $16,775

Romney: $7,200

 

UVA College at Wise

No records found for either candidate

 

Virginia Tech

Obama: $3,500

Romney: $1,250

 

College of William and Mary

Obama: $2,050

Romney: No records found

 

University of Mary Washington

Obama: $1,475

Romney: No records found

 

Virginia Commonwealth University

Obama: $8,865

Romney: $500

 

Virginia Military Institute

Obama: $650

Romney: No results

 

Virginia State University

Obama: $1,950

Romney: No records found

 

 

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Kathryn Watson is an investigative reporter for Watchdog.org's Virginia Bureau. Her work has appeared in places like Drudge Report, Washington Examiner, Reason and Human Events, and she has made appearances on Fox News and NBC4. An alumna of the National Journalism Center, Katie is a member of Investigative Reporters Editors. She graduated with a journalism degree and highest honors from Biola University in L.A., where she ran the student newspaper. After college, she reported for a mid-sized newspaper in Santa Barbara, Calif. Her work has earned her "Best in Show" and two first-place awards from the Virginia Press Association.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JEANNIE1951 Wanda Jean McCoole

    VA IS ASCREWED UP STSE IF THEYBELIEVE IN OBAMAS LIES THATS WHY I DT LIKE THIS STATE TO MUCH AND LIVE IN IT.THERE ARE TO MANY PPL IN THIS STATE THAT HAVE MORE MONEY THEN SENCE-AS FOR ME I PLAN TO VOTE FOR A MAN WHO WAS BORN IN TH US-WORKED FOR HIS ONEY UNLIKE THAT LIER AND FRAUD IN NOW-BY THE WAY MRSROMNEY DOESNT BUY $6500 OUT FITS WITH OUR MONEY LIKE THE FIRST LADY-AND MRS ROMNEY RESPECTS THE US FLAG UNLIKE THE FIRST ADY-WHAT WAS IT SHE SAI TO MR OBAMA-LETS SEE “ALL THIS FOR A FLAG” I REST MY CASE

  • Bertie

    I work at a politically correct university and I am proud of it, and of my work to this politically correct end.
    http://distinguishedfellows.blogspot.ca/2012/03/bertie-on-politically-correct-physics.html

Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau, is in no way affiliated with "The Virginia Watchdog". Any similarities between Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau and "The Virginia Watchdog" is completely coincidental and unintentional. Any inquiries into "The Virginia Watchdog" may be done through their site.

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