Tip Sheet: Conventions, Campaigns and Elections; A Journalist's Guide to University of Virginia Political Experts

The University of Virginia is a political science powerhouse. It's home to not only Larry Sabato's Center for Politics, whose Crystal Ball predictions of the 2006 election results were the most accurate of any prognosticators; it is also the site of the Miller Center of Public Affairs, a national center for the study of the American presidency housing almost 5,000 hours of secret presidential recordings, and the Sorenson Institute for Political Leadership, hailed as a national model for bipartisan leadership training, as highlighted in the PBS documentary "Across the Aisle."


With more than 50 faculty who study politics, U.Va. experts are ready to comment on a wide range of political issues, from campaign ads to presidential history, to the implicit racial biases of voters, to voting machine security issues, to healthcare policy.

For assistance in reaching any U.Va. experts, please contact either Brevy Cannon or Marian Anderfuren:

Brevy Cannon
University of Virginia Media Relations
Marian Anderfuren
University of Virginia Media Relations Director



• Paul Freedman
Associate professor of politics
434-924-1372 (office)
434-242-8654 (mobile)


Freedman co-authored a book demonstrating how, contrary to popular opinion, voters benefit from the ongoing barrage of negative political ads, which serve as "multi-vitamins for the average American's impoverished diet of political information." His research found that negative ads are the ones most likely to educate, engage and mobilize voters.


He posits that John McCain's recent television spot comparing Barack Obama's celebrity to that of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears has redefined the negative political ad by breaking all the traditional rules of political advertising.


Freedman also studies the impacts of new media and technology on politics, as in this short video interview.


Freedman does off-camera polling return analysis for ABC News.


The "Christian Left"

Charles Marsh
Religious studies professor and director of the Project on Lived Theology
434-924-6839 (office)
434-989-0336 (mobile)


According to Marsh, the Christian Left is alive, well and active in many important social justice causes nationwide, but has been flying below the media's radar. "Committed Christians have been working quietly for decades to cope with this country's social problems," says Marsh, who grew up as the son of a Southern Baptist minister in Alabama and Mississippi during the 1960s and '70s.


His most recent book, "Wayward Christian Soldiers: Freeing the Gospel from Political Captivity," offers an impassioned account of the political misuses of faith by evangelical Christian leaders and churches in the United States — the results of a Faustian bargain for political access and power.


Previous media citation:
Op Ed: Wayward Christian Soldiers
New York Times / January 20, 2006


Education reform

Robert Pianta
Dean of the Curry School of Education
Director of the U.Va. Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning
Professor of education, professor of psychology
434-924-3332 (office)


Author of five books, Pianta is an expert on early childhood education and the importance of teacher quality, especially for underprivileged children. In 2008 he joined Virginia Gov. Timothy Kaine in advocating expanded pre-kindergarten education.

"It is imperative that we continue to push ahead with education reform by renewing some version of No Child Left Behind and retaining its accountability previsions," he says. "A key part of the next step will be getting serious about teacher quality."


Previous media citations:


To Draw Top Teachers to Troubled Schools, Foundation Will Offer $30,000 Stipends
Washington Post / Dec. 20, 2007

Commentary: Measure Actual Classroom Teaching
Education Week / Nov. 7, 2007

Energy and Environmental Politics


Vivian Thomson
Assistant professor, Department of Environmental Sciences, Department of Politics
Co-director of the Environmental Thought and Practice program
Online bio


Thomson has been appointed twice by Virginia governors (in 2002 and 2006) to the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board, the five-member body that makes air pollution policy for the state.


Before entering academia she spent 10 years as a senior policy analyst for the Environmental Protection Agency. As an expert on emissions trading systems, she has studied and consulted on the issue in Europe, and has a book under review: "Desperately Seeking Certainty: Air Pollution Policy and Its Discontents, 1970-1995."


A second book project, "Garbage In, Garbage Out: Virginia is for Landfills," examines interstate trash transport in the United States within a broad social, economic and cultural context that includes cross-country comparisons.

Gender, race and class in politics


Brian Nosek
Assistant professor of psychology


Nosek is a co-developer of the online Implicit Association Test, which measures how long it takes respondents to match positive and negative words with black and white faces (including Obama's), revealing "implicit bias."


Previous media citation:


Discussion of bias needs give and take
San Francisco Chronicle / May 10, 2007


Lynn Sanders
Associate professor of politics
434-284-1580 (mobile)
434-924-3613 (office)
434-973-0173 (home)
Online bio


Sanders studies gender, race and class issues, with a special interest in the issue of whether voters lie to conform with perceived social standards.


Previous media citations:


For scholars of race, an Obama dilemma
Seattle Times / Newhouse News Service / Aug. 13


What role has gender played in Clinton's campaign?
National Post (Canada) / May 23


Vesla Weaver
Assistant professor of politics
Online bio


Weaver studies race and ethnic politics, immigration, the politics of inequality, social policy and political psychology. She is currently completing a book manuscript, "Frontlash: Race and Transformation of American Criminal Policy and Politics," which uncovers a connection between the movement for civil rights and the development of punitive criminal justice.


She has conducted research exploring how white voters react to black and Latino political candidates of varying skin tones. At age 28, she's one of the youngest faculty at U.Va., having gone from undergraduate to professor in just six years.


Previous media citation:


In a gamble, Obama takes aim at America's 'racial stalemate'
USA Today / March 19, 2008



Health care reform


Dr. Arthur Garson Jr.
Provost and former dean of the U.Va. School of Medicine
434-924-8419 (office)
434-971-1718 (home)
Additional assistance: Peter Jump, prj4p@virginia.edu, 434-924-1501


A leading expert on national health policy, Dr. Garson has authored or co-authored over 400 scholarly publications, and eight books including, "Health Care Half Truths: Too Many Myths, Not Enough Reality." He has served in advisory capacities to the Bush administration and the state governments of Virginia and Texas, and on two presidentially appointed task forces. He has strong views on health care reform.


"Tax breaks will clearly help reduce the uninsured," Garson says. "The key is, 'How much is the break?' It's no good if anyone has to come up with more than 5 percent of their income, or if they buy 'insurance' that when you read the fine print actually barely covers a doctor visit and no tests. More than seven in 10 people who are uninsured work — and continue to work — and so the ability to be covered between jobs is vital. Automobile accidents don't just occur when people are working."


In 2006, he helped draft the Health Partnership Act, a bill with bipartisan sponsors in both the U.S. Senate and House, designed to expand health care coverage to millions of uninsured Americans by fostering health care innovations with competitive state grants.


Previous media citation:


Opinion: Prevention is good medicine, but it's not a fiscal panacea
USA Today / February 13, 2008


Elizabeth Olmsted Teisberg
Associate professor of business administration
Online bio


An economist with expertise in strategy and innovation, Teisberg focuses her current research on innovation in health care. She is co-author of the book "Redefining Health Care," which addresses the paradox of why competition doesn't work in healthcare and how to make it work.


"The problem with our health care system isn't that we have too much or too little competition, but that we have the wrong kind of competition," Teisberg says. "The structure of health care delivery has to change. Consumer-driven health care won't work.”


Teisberg is also a strong proponent of universal health care coverage: "Not just for reasons of ethics," she says, "but for reasons of economy as well."


Previous media citation:


Guest column: Rethinking the role of employers
Financial Times / July 3, 2008
International relations


• Jeffrey W. Legro
Professor of politics


Legro explores the challenges that different views of international order and security among major nations pose for American foreign policy in his most recent book, "Rethinking the World: Great Power Strategies and International Order." In an earlier book, "Cooperation Under Fire: Anglo-German Restraint During World War II," Legro examined the use and non-use of "unthinkable" weapons such as chemical warfare and unrestricted bombing. In 2002-2003, he was a Fulbright professor at China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing.

Media and politics


Siva Vaidhyanathan
Professor of law and media studies
917-532-6043 (mobile)
Online bio


Vaidhyanathan writes a popular blog called "The Googlization of Everything: How One Company is Disrupting Culture, Commerce and Community ... and Why We Should Worry." The author of books such as "Copyrights and Copywrongs" and "The Anarchist in the Library," he is a leading thinker on the big questions raised by the new Information Age. "The interaction between law and technology, and how that affects us as citizens, is at the core of everything I've worked on," he notes.

"At the most simplistic level, Obama is supported by Internet companies that are fighting for network neutrality—an open and competitive Internet," says Vaidhyanathan. "McCain is supported by the big telecom companies like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast, and they want to control and re-engineer the consumer experience in high speed broadband. Whoever is elected will create a very different regulatory environment."


He is frequently a source for national media, from NPR to "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."


Previous media citations:


What the Creative in 'Creative Commons' Really Means
PC Magazine / Dec. 14, 2007

Google Offers a Map for Its Philanthropy
New York Times / Jan. 18, 2008



Presidential politics


James W. Ceaser
Professor of politics
434 924-7903 (office)
434-996-1488 (mobile)
Online bio


Ceaser has written several books on elections and political thought, including as co-author (with Andrew E. Busch) of "Red Over Blue: The 2004 Elections and American Politics" and "The Perfect Tie: The True Story of the 2000 Presidential Election."

He is a frequent contributor to national media including the Weekly Standard, Voice of America, the New York Times, USA Today and others.


Previous media citations:


What a Long, Strange Race It's Been
Wall Street Journal / April 2, 2008

Coping with Victory/The Democrats' dilemma

The Weekly Standard / Nov. 15, 2007

Passing Down the Legacy of Conservatism
New York Times / July 31, 2006


Sidney Milkis
Professor of politics
Assistant director for academic programs at U.Va.'s Miller Center of Public Affairs
434-924-6052 (office)
434-975-3139 (home)
434-984-5685 (home)
Online bio


Milkis has written 11 books on American politics. Several serve as popular textbooks, including, "American Government: Balancing Rights and Democracy, 2nd edition" and "The American Presidency: Origins and Development, 1776–1998, 5th edition."


His research focuses on the American presidency, political parties and elections, social movements and American political development.


Previous media citations:


What Obama Can Learn From Bubba
Huffington Post / July 2, 2008


Historians see little chance for McCain
Politico / June 15, 2008


Russell Riley
Associate professor and chairman of the Presidential Oral History Program at U.Va.'s Miller Center of Public Affairs
434-982-2740 (office)
Online bio


Riley studies race and politics, presidential leadership, Southern politics and political parties. His book, "The Presidency and the Politics of Racial Inequality: Nation-keeping from 1831–1965," is a comparative study of how presidents dealt with abolitionism and the later movement for black civil rights. He is currently working on a book about post-war politics in the United States, examining comparatively the immediate aftermaths of the Civil War, World Wars I and II, and the Cold War.


Previous media citations:


Divided We Stand
The Politico / Jan. 31, 2007


For History's Sake, Nothing Like a Paper Trail
Washington Post / Nov. 6, 2005


• Larry J. Sabato
Robert Kent Gooch Professor of Politics and director of the U.Va. Center for Politics


Recognized as one of the nation's top political analysts, Sabato is a keen observer of politics on the national, regional and state levels. Sabato has written more than 20 books and numerous essays on the American political process. His recent book, "Divided States of America: The Slash and Burn Politics of the 2004 Presidential Election," examines the election and sets the stage for what the nation might expect to see in the 2008 presidential election.



Voting machine technology


David Evans
Associate professor of computer science
School of Engineering and Applied Science
434-982-2218 (office)
Online bio


Evans is an expert on voting machine technology and security. In addition to his research on the flaws of computerized voting equipment, Evans has served on a Virginia state legislative subcommittee on voting equipment.


Previous media citation:


Computer expert: Scrap all paperless voting machines
Roanoke Times / Nov. 16, 2006


Bryan Pfaffenberger
Associate professor of Science, Technology and Society


Pfaffenberger is currently writing a book on the history of voting machines from 1888 to 1983, tentatively titled, "Machining the Vote." He has found that scholars have all but ignored the history of voting machines, which he finds surprising given our politically obsessed culture. "There's an almost exact parallel between the debate we're having today concerning electronic voting machines and the equally divisive, but completely forgotten, debate that greeted first-generation voting machine technology in the 1920s," Pfaffenberger says.


Previous media citation:
Return to paper ballots? Not so fast/History shows that the US gave them up for good reason
Christian Science Monitor / May 30, 2008