Jennifer McCoy, PhD, is Regent’s Professor of Political Science at Georgia State University and Nonresident Scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, as well as Research Affiliate at CEU’s Democracy Institute in Budapest.  During spring 2023 she was visiting researcher at Koc University in Istanbul, and in 2022 she was visiting scholar at Central European University’s Democracy Institute in Budapest Collegio Carlo Alberto in Turin, Italy and at Koc University in Istanbul. In 2019 she was a Senior Core Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies at Central European University in Budapest, Hungary. She was named a GSU Distinguished University Professor in the inaugural class of 2013 and served as inaugural director of the Global Studies Institute (2015-16).  Prior to this, Dr. McCoy served as Director of the Carter Center’s Americas Program (1998-2015), leading projects on democratic strengthening, mediation and dialogue, and hemispheric cooperation. A specialist on democratization and polarization, mediation and conflict prevention, election processes and election observation, and Latin American politics, Dr. McCoy has authored or edited six books and dozens of articles.  Her latest volume is Polarizing Polities: A Global Threat to  Democracy, co-edited with Murat Somer (2019).   She teaches courses on democratic erosion, comparative democratization, international norms, and Latin American politics.

Dr. McCoy’s current research project on Polarized Democracies seeks to determine the causes, consequences and solutions to polarized societies around the world, including Venezuela, Turkey, Hungary, Thailand, Hungary, Bangladesh, and the United States. She coined the term “pernicious polarization” to refer to the political polarization that divides societies into mutually distrustful “Us vs. Them” camps, undermines the capacity of democracies to address critical policy problems, and often incentivizes leaders and citizens to support democratic erosion. Leading a group of international scholars and funded by NSF, International Studies Association, and Central European University, McCoy organized two international workshops whose work was published as book-length volumes of the American Behavioral Scientist (Jan 2018) and Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (January 2019). 

She is currently working on two book projects with Murat Somer on strategies to prevent and overcome pernicious polarization and protect democracy at the macro level, and on opposition strategies to challenge incremental autocratization. In another project, McCoy examines the micro-foundations of severe polarization and democratic erosion, looking at causes of citizen support for democratic-norm violations, as well as possible antidotes to the hostility and distrust of the “Other” and decreasing support for democracy caused by Us vs Them polarizing strategies of populist political leaders.  This collaborative work includes online survey experiments in the U.S. and Hungary with Gabor Simonovits and Levente Littvay.

Prior to this, Dr. McCoy completed a research project funded by USAID and NSF on Legitimacy Deficits in Transitional Justice in the Colombian Peace Process, with Ryan Carlin, Jelena Subotic and Greg Love.  Dr. McCoy also participates in Team Populism — an international research team on Causes and Consequences of Populism, comparing Latin America, North America and Europe. She has received research grants and awards from NSF, USAID Center for Democracy, US Institute of Peace, Rockefeller Foundation, North-South Center, and Fulbright Association.

At The Carter Center, Dr. McCoy created the group of Friends of the Inter-American Democratic Charter; directed The Carter Center’s projects on Mediation and Monitoring in Venezuela 2002-2004, Ecuador-Colombia Dialogue Group 2008-2010, and U.S.-Andean Dialogue Group 2010-2011; led over a dozen election monitoring missions and organized former President Carter’s historic trips to Cuba in 2002 and 2011. She served as a mediator in Venezuela, and between Ecuador and Colombia, and published with Francisco Diez a book analyzing the Venezuelan conflict: International Mediation in Venezuela (USIP Press, 2011).

McCoy is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations; member of the International Women’s Forum; and founding co-chair of the Atlanta chapter of the Scholar’s Strategy Network. She currently serves on the editorial board of Journal of Democracy and several task forces and advisory committees focused on improving democratic resilience in the United States.


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