August 10, 2007

Political involvement, proxies of

new report on political giving by higher-education employees is sure to provoke more fallacious arguments about politics and academe. Some things to keep in mind:

  • The report includes data on all higher-ed employees, and is about all giving. Without more information (which the Center on Responsive Politics wouldn't have), we don't know how much of the giving was by faculty, how much by administrators who used to be faculty, and how much by adminsitrators who never were faculty. My guess (but it could easily be wrong) is that a slight majority of the giving was by current faculty but that administrators were more likely to give larger amounts.
  • Employees in the top 10 giving institutions account for about 20% of all giving. That's 10 out of hundreds... or 19, if you include the fact that the U.C. system has 10 campuses. Wow. The disproportionate giving suggests that at most colleges and institutions, a much lower proportion of employees contribute to political campaigns at all. (I.e., this data is not representative of most faculty across the country.) If you just count Harvard, U. of California, William and Mary, and Columbia, that's 11% of the total giving. More than 10% of all political contributions this cycle are coming from just 13 institutions. It's still an amazing statistic, and it's even more amazing that the other three individual places outdo the U.C. system.
  • The top 10 giving institutions are also disproportionately favoring Democrats, 87%-13%. The rest is closer to 73%-27%, which still favors Democrats, but there's a clear difference in patterns.
  • What political contributions say about teaching and research is ... very little. But watch for the giant gaps in reasoning that make such assumptions.

Update: And the first fallacy award goes to ... David French. As John Wilson notes, the key question on the size of contributions by industry is the contribution per employee.

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Posted in Academic freedom on August 10, 2007 12:55 PM |