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Prof, admin contributions lean to left

With election season in full swing, Duke professors and administrators are showing the money to their top picks for the next U.S. president.

Faculty members and administrators financially support Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama over Republican nominee John McCain by more than 7-to-1, according to 2008 records from the Federal Election Commission, which governs and tracks all political contributions at the national level.

According to Gallup polls of the general public, Obama can claim 48 percent of support and McCain 42 percent. But polling among people with a postgraduate education shows 57 percent supporting Obama, with only 37 percent supporting McCain.

Michael Munger, chair of the department of political science and Libertarian candidate for North Carolina governor, said he was shocked by the margin.

"I would have thought it would have been greater," he said. "If anything, the 7-1 ratio underrepresents the extent to which Duke faculty tend to lean toward the left."

Although there may be many who do not contribute financially to political campaigns, Duke faculty gives more than the general public, Munger said. According to studies he has performed, one out of 100 people in the general public---even less in some elections-contribute financially.

Despite faculty and administrators favoring Democrats, both parties have notable support at the University. Executive Vice President Tallman Trask contributed $1,000 in May to Republican Senator Elizabeth Dole, who is seeking reelection this November. Dr. Nancy Andrews, dean of the School of Medicine and vice chancellor for academic affairs, contributed $500 to Obama in July. David Levi, dean of the School of Law, gave $2,300 to Obama in January and then gave $1,000 to McCain in April.

"During the primary season, when there were several contending candidates in each party, I decided to give to the two candidates, one from each party, that I most hoped would win their parties' respective nominations and be on the final ballot in November, with one of them becoming president," Levi said.

Yet some notable University figures were absent. The last time Provost Peter Lange made a political contribution at the national level was in 2004 to Rep. David Price, D-N.C. And according to FEC records online, President Richard Brodhead has never contributed at the national level.

Associate professor of economics Patrick Bayer said he donated $750 to Obama because he liked his policies and what he represents. When it comes to politics, Bayer counts himself among the more active of Duke's faculty members. He added that political activism is a mixed bag at Duke.

"I think there are some [politically active] people and we talk about politics a lot, and some people don't really seem to have much interest at all," he said.

Munger himself donated $1,000 to the Libertarian National Committee and another $1,000 to Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr. He was the only faculty member to donate to the Libertarian Party or a Libertarian candidate at the national level, though Munger said many Duke faculty and staff have donated to his campaign for governor and to the Libertarian Party of North Carolina.

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