Current Research


Depolarization through Civic Education and Civic Engagement

My Andrew Carnegie project (2024-26), “Mitigating Pernicious Polarization through Innovative Civic Educational Interventions,” aims to build student civic skills and dispositions to navigate a hyper-polarized context, remain open to contending viewpoints, and become engaged rather than alienated citizens. With co-investigator Michael Evans, senior lecturer at Georgia State University, I will measure the impact of innovative civic education assignments given to over 16,000 students at two universities over two years, identifying the most effective pedagogical approaches to reduce polarization that can be scaled nationally.

Political Polarization and Endangered Democracies

My research here focuses on the consequences of pernicious polarization for democracies globally.  Since 2018 I have published several volumes of collaborative work from an international group of scholars I convened, in American Behavioral Scientist, Jan. 2018 and Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, coedited with Murat Somer, as well as several articles available under Publications.  My ongoing research seek to identify successful strategies to prevent, manage, or reverse pernicious polarization and its negative consequences for democracy.  This research focuses on macro-national level political dynamics in comparative perspective.

  • Overcoming Polarization and Protecting Democracy, ongoing book project with Murat Somer to learn lessons from global episodes of sustained and unsustained depolarization.

Challenging Autocratizing Leaders

The logic of Us vs. Them polarization provides political incentives as well as social psychological dimensions that result in illiberal politics, democratic erosion, and autocratization by incumbent parties and leaders.  This project focuses on new dilemmas for social and political opposition actors attempting to contain such autocratization, and lessons learned from successful and failed strategies globally.

  • Stopping Democracy’s Destruction: Opposition Dilemmas and Strategies, ongoing book project with Murat Somer to theorize opposition dilemmas in challenging 21st century illiberalism and autocratization, and draw lessons from successful strategies worldwide.

Micro-Foundations of Democratic Attitudes

I am also concerned with citizen attitudes toward democracy and its erosion, particularly the conditions that contribute to tolerance or support of democratic norm violations, and possible mitigation strategies.  I’ve conducted several national online survey experiments in the U.S. and Hungary since 2018 with Levente Littvay and Gabor Simonovits to test the roles of copartisanship, and two indicators of polarization — expressive partisanship and out-party threat, on citizen support for democratic norm violations.  In addition, I’ve tested several possible mitigation strategies for polarizing populism, with limited success, demonstrating the difficulty in overcoming the social psychological attributes of severe Us vs. Them polarization.  Working papers are listed here.

  • “Democratic Hypocrisy and Out-group Threat: Explaining Citizen Support for Democratic Erosion.” Gábor Simonovits, Jennifer McCoy, and Levente Littvay. July 29, 2021. PsyArXiv.  doi: 10.31234/
  • “Reducing Partisan Animus in Populist Contexts: Limitations of Shared Common Humanity and Perspective-Taking Interventions”, Jennifer McCoy, Ozlun Tuncel, Juan S. Gomez Cruces, Levente Littvay, Gabor Simonovits, Working Paper, 2021.
  • “Stoking vs. Mitigating Populist Attitudes with Emotions and Rhetoric: an online experiment in the U.S,” Clark Demas, Jennifer McCoy and Levente Littvay, Working Paper, 2021.
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