University of Pittsburgh
March 10, 2008

University of Pittsburgh Faculty Experts Available to Discuss April 22 Primary and Pennsylvania as a Vast and Politically Nuanced Territory for Democratic Hopefuls

Pennsylvania's booming east, postindustrial west, and rural midsection create a mosaic of conflicting political, social, and economic concerns
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH-With Pennsylvania's April 22 presidential primary, contenders for the Democratic Party's nomination face a large state with drastically different regions and an electorate that reflects the unique concerns of the area. University of Pittsburgh faculty experts are available to discuss how, from the booming and more socially liberal east around Philadelphia to the postindustrial west near Pittsburgh and throughout the rural midsection, the issues facing Pennsylvania voters cannot be addressed by any one policy or approach.


Christopher Briem, a regional economist at Pitt's University Center for Social and Urban Research (UCSUR), describes Pennsylvania as a collection of distinct economies and says that a presidential candidate addressing the state's development needs a healthy knowledge of metropolitan, postindustrial, and agricultural economies. Southeastern Pennsylvania, with Philadelphia as its hub, continues to grow as an integral part of the nation's East Coast corridor between Boston and Washington, D.C. The surrounding counties are expanding to serve both Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., Briem says. Conversely, western and northeastern Pennsylvania still struggle with postindustrial recovery. Pittsburgh, Western Pennsylvania's principal city, continues its gradual maturation from heavy industry to a center for education, medical research, and culture, but many small towns are floundering without their factories. Moreover, casino gambling is a burgeoning sector in such one-time factory towns as Pittsburgh, Erie, and Bethlehem, Briem says. Outside of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania remains predominantly rural and is among the nation's largest agricultural producers, with farms-many of them family-owned-throughout the state. "There isn't a single answer for the Pennsylvania economy because there isn't just one Pennsylvania economy," Briem says. Contact Chris Briem at or through Morgan Kelley

Regional Politics and Reaching the Electorate

Gerald Shuster, an expert in presidential rhetoric and political communication in Pitt's Department of Communication in the School of Arts and Sciences, says that Pennsylvania's distinct regions translate into distinct politics. Voters' preferences are characterized by the major differences between the state's three prime areas: The cosmopolitan east around Philadelphia; the working-class, financially strapped postindustrial southwest surrounding Pittsburgh; and the more socially conservative rural areas that make up much of the state. Pennsylvania's cities tend to be made up of staunch Democrats while the vast rural districts typically vote Republican. Furthermore, Shuster can discuss the fledging mobilization and influence of 18- to 25-year-old voters in Pennsylvania, a state traditionally dominated by an older electorate. As Pitt is one of the growing centers of this young, educated voter block, Shuster can address and attest to both this group's dawning power and involvement, and how the campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have tapped into it. Contact Gerald Shuster at 412-624-5199 (office), 724-664-3258 (cell), or; or through Trish White.

Larry Davis, dean of Pitt's School of Social Work and director and founder of Pitt's Center on Race and Social Problems (CRSP), says the ability of voters to look beyond the Democratic primary as just a Black-versus-White contest is encouraging. "Many voters are looking beyond race and instead focusing on qualifications. In particular, I'm heartened that so many Whites in places where there are virtually no Blacks have supported Obama. Win or lose, Obama's candidacy has been good for the country. This is true for Pennsylvania and for the rest of the nation." Davis created CRSP, the first research center on race at any school of social work in the nation, shortly after he arrived at the University of Pittsburgh in 2001. He has added several new courses on race issues to the social work curriculum and is creating a new "Journal on Race and Social Problems." He is the coauthor of "Race, Gender and Class: Guidelines for Practice With Individuals, Families and Groups" (Prentice Hall, 1989) and the author of "Working With African American Males: A Guide to Practice" (Sage Publications, 1999). Contact Larry Davis at 412-624-6304 (office), or; or through Sharon Blake.

Susan Hansen, a political science professor in Pitt's School of Arts and Sciences specializing in women and politics (including the impact of women in public office), says that demographics generally predict outcome, and Pennsylvania contains large numbers of groups who have favored Senator Hillary Clinton: union members, women, older voters, and registered Democrats. Hansen also is available to discuss Pennsylvania's primary laws and other issues of concern to the electorate. Hansen also specializes in American politics, economic policy, taxation, and state and local politics. She has written numerous articles in academic journals, including "Explaining the 'Brain Drain' From Older Industrial Cities: The Pittsburgh Region," with Leonard Huggins and Carolyn Ban, in "Economic Development Quarterly" (2003); "Governors' Job Performance Ratings and State Unemployment: The Case of California," in "State and Local Government Review" (Winter 1999); "State Implementation of Supreme Court Decisions: Abortion Rates Since "Roe v. Wade," in "Journal of Politics" (May 1980); and "The Supreme Court, the States, and Social Change: The Case of Abortion," in "Journal of Peace and Change" (Fall 1980). Her book, "Globalization and the Politics of Pay: Policy Choices in the American States" (Georgetown University Press, 2006), analyzes the impact of economic policy choices and labor regulations on adaptation to globalization in the 50 states since 1970. Contact Susan Hansen at 412-648-7272 (office), or; or through Trish White.

Barbara Warnick, professor and chair of Pitt's communication department, says that Senator Barack Obama's mobilization of Pennsylvania voters will be interesting to observe. Clinton is an established Democrat campaigning in a state with a high concentration of rural and older voters. Obama, on the other hand, is particularly popular among younger urban voters and has relied more on Internet-based campaigning. "Early on, the Pennsylvania primary looks interesting," Warnick says. "Clinton has overcome the odds twice to come from behind, and her focus on health care and the economy resonates with Pennsylvania voters, particularly the older population. It will be interesting to see Obama's strategy here." She is author of "Rhetoric Online: Persuasion and Politics on the World Wide Web" (New York: Peter Lang, 2007). She also can comment on the candidate debates. Contact Barbara Warnick at 412-624-1564 (office), or; or through Trish White.

Immigration and National Security in Pennsylvania

David Harris, University of Pittsburgh law professor, has expertise in national security and the law, including homeland security and immigration, two issues central to the 2008 election. Illegal immigration particularly applies to Pennsylvania, wherein many rural and urban areas find jobs in short supply and citizens frequently demand action. The central Pennsylvania town of Hazleton sparked an outcry for its Illegal Immigration Relief Act, which imposed sanctions on people hiring or renting housing to illegal immigrants, but Harris says the town was ahead of an approaching curve. "The Hazleton ordinance was no fluke," Harris says. "People want something done, and the federal government has not risen to the challenge. The question is how we cope with this challenge while keeping our country strong and safe." National security also resonates in Pennsylvania as it relates to security in the major city of Philadelphia and memories of the Sept. 11, 2001, crash of United Airlines Flight 93 near Shanksville. Harris is the leading national authority on racial profiling. His book, "Profiles in Injustice: Why Racial Profiling Cannot Work" (The New Press, 2002), and scholarly articles in the field of traffic stops of non-White motorists influenced the national debate on profiling and related topics. Harris has testified three times in the U.S. Senate and before many state legislative bodies. Harris has appeared on "The Today Show" and "Dateline NBC" and has been interviewed by "The New York Times," "The Wall Street Journal," and "The Los Angeles Times," among others. He served as a member of the Civil Liberties Advisory Board to the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security. Contact David Harris at 412-648-9530 (office), or; or through Trish White.

Election Politics and Procedure

David C. Barker, associate professor and director of graduate studies in Pitt's Department of Political Science in the School of Arts and Sciences, is an expert in the American primary and general election process, including campaign management and themes, media coverage, partisanship, and electoral rules. Barker also specializes in political psychology and methodology. Barker's book "Rushed to Judgment? Talk Radio, Persuasion and American Political Behavior" (Columbia University Press, 2002), part of the "Power, Conflict, and Democracy Series" edited by Robert Shapiro, was nominated for the McGannon Communication Policy Research Award and the Bart Richards Award for Media Criticism. It has been cited in many popular media outlets, including "The Atlantic," "The NewsHour," "The New York Times," "The Washington Post," "The Al Franken Show" (Air America radio), and "The Rush Limbaugh Show." Contact David Barker at 412-648-7275 (office), or; or through Trish White.

Jennifer Victor, assistant professor in Pitt's Department of Political Science in the School of Arts and Sciences, has expertise in American politics, the U.S. Congress, lobbying, interest groups, and campaign finance. Victor's articles include "Dynamic Agenda Setting on the U.S. Supreme Court: An Empirical Assessment" in the "Harvard Journal on Legislation" and "The Institutional Effect on Majority Rule Instability: Bicameralism in Spatial Policy Decisions" in "The American Journal of Political Science." In 2004-05, Victor had a congressional fellowship at the American Political Science Association. She has discussed political matters with the media and has appeared frequently on PCNC's "Night Talk." Contact Jennifer Victor at 412-624-7204 (office), or; or through Trish White.

For a list of Pitt faculty experts, visit