Jennifer L. McCoy

Distinguished University Professor of Political Science, Georgia State University

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About Jennifer

McCoy specializes in democratic erosion and political polarization, crisis prevention and conflict resolution, and electoral processes, including electronic voting and international election monitoring. McCoy's current research is on pernicious polarization’s harm to democracy in the U.S. and around the world. McCoy's recent project was on the politics of transitional justice in the Colombian peace talks. McCoy has done extensive election monitoring in Latin America and the United States, mediation in political conflicts in Latin America, and also organized grassroots political involvement and citizen advocacy in Georgia and U.S. politics. McCoy served as director of the Americas Program at The Carter Center for 1998-2015. McCoy has provided expert testimony to U.S. Congress and consulted with government and international organizations on U.S. policy toward Latin America.

In the News

Quoted by Kate Riga in "The Capitol Insurrection Was Decades in the Making," Talking Points Memo, January 29, 2021.
Quoted by Maggie Koerth and Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux in "Our Radicalized Republic ," FiveThirtyEight, January 25, 2021.
Opinion: "Can American Democracy Survive Trump’s Republican Party?," Jennifer L. McCoy, World Politics Review, January 13, 2021.
Opinion: "Invoke the Inter-American Democratic Charter for the USA," Jennifer L. McCoy (with Henry F. Carey and ), Jurist, January 13, 2021.
Quoted by in "How Much Danger Is American Democracy In?," Five Thirty Eight, January 12, 2021.
Opinion: "What Jeff Foxworthy (and Social Science) Can Teach Us About Voting Rights," Jennifer L. McCoy (with Richard F. Doner), The Telegraph, November 12, 2020.
Guest on The Democracy Test, October 7, 2018.
Opinion: "Venezuela Elections 2018: Evaluating Electoral Conditions in an Authoritarian Regime," Jennifer L. McCoy (with Griselda Colina), London School of Economics and Political Science, May 18, 2018.
Quoted by Andrew Rosati in "Maduro Set to Win Vote He Forced. The Likely Loser: Venezuela," Bloomberg, May 17, 2018.
Opinion: "Will Elections Save Venezuela?," Jennifer L. McCoy, The Hill, January 26, 2018.
Opinion: "Credibility of Venezuela's Electoral Process on the Line," Jennifer L. McCoy, Washington Office on Latin America, August 3, 2017.
Guest on WBUR, August 2, 2017.
Quoted by in "Venezuelan Officials Tampered with Election, Voting-Software Firm Says," The Wall Street Journal, August 2, 2017.
Opinion: "Venezuela’s Controversial New Constituent Assembly, Explained," Jennifer L. McCoy, The Washington Post, August 1, 2017.
Interviewed in "Venezuela: New Beginnings or More of the Same?," Al Jazeera English, July 31, 2017.
Opinion: "What Can be Done about the Crisis in Venezuela?," Jennifer L. McCoy, Maclean’s Magazine, July 7, 2017.
Opinion: "Protests Alone Won’t Fix Venezuela. This Approach Could.," Jennifer L. McCoy, Reuters, May 3, 2017.
Guest on National Public Radio, April 5, 2017.
Guest on Rising Up with Sonali, September 27, 2016.
Opinion: "Will Colombia’s Peace Deal Get the People’s Vote?," Jennifer L. McCoy, The Conversation, September 24, 2016.
Opinion: "Can Outsiders Help Venezuela in the Midst of Crisis, Again?," Jennifer L. McCoy, The Conversation, June 28, 2016.
Quoted by Andrew Rosati in "OAS Meets to Discuss Venezuela as Economic Crisis Deepens," Bloomberg, June 23, 2016.
Quoted by Kyle Munzenrieder in "Is Donald Trump the Gringo Hugo Chávez?," Miami New Times, June 9, 2016.
Opinion: "From Interruption to Alteration: Almagro Applies the Inter-American Democratic Charter to Venezuela," Jennifer L. McCoy, Washington Office on Latin America Blog, June 2, 2016.
Opinion: "What Hugo Chávez and Donald Trump Have in Common," Jennifer L. McCoy, Reuters, March 31, 2016.
Opinion: "Venezuela Election: Socialist Party Defeat Comes at Turbulent Time for Higher Education," Jennifer L. McCoy, Times Higher Education, December 9, 2015.
Opinion: "Could the Peace Deal in Colombia be a Model for Other Conflicts?," Jennifer L. McCoy (with Jelena Subotic), The Conversation, October 9, 2015.
Opinion: "Jimmy Carter in Cuba," Jennifer L. McCoy, The Conversation, August 14, 2015.
Opinion: "Jimmy Carter Paved the Way for U.S. and Cuba Relations," Jennifer L. McCoy, Time, August 14, 2015.
Opinion: "Paying for Human Rights Violations: Perceptions of the Colombian Peace Process," Jennifer L. McCoy (with Ryan E. Carlin and Jelena Subotic), Open Democracy, August 3, 2015.
Opinion: "Can Latin America and the United States Overcome the Past?," Jennifer L. McCoy, The Conversation, April 14, 2015.
Opinion: "Historic Summit Falls Short of Potential," Jennifer L. McCoy, Al Jazeera America, April 13, 2015.
Opinion: "Americas Summit: Real Hemispheric Problems Shrouded behind Leaders Delicate Dance," Jennifer L. McCoy, Global Atalnta, April 10, 2015.
Quoted by Andres Oppenheimer in "In Venezuelan Elections, Too Many Dead Vote," Miami Herald, March 28, 2015.
Opinion: "Approaching the End of a Fifty-Year Conflict," Jennifer L. McCoy, Peace Policy, January 28, 2015.
Opinion: "The US-Venezuela-Cuba Triangle," Jennifer L. McCoy, The Conversation, January 7, 2015.
Opinion: "Cuba: History is on Obama's Side," Jennifer L. McCoy, Al Jazeera, December 20, 2014.
Guest on CNN, December 17, 2014.
Opinion: "The Electoral Challenge for the Western Hemisphere," Jennifer L. McCoy, Americas Quarterly, Fall 2014.
Opinion: "Pitfalls Abound in Colombia-FARC Peace Talks," Jennifer L. McCoy (with Ryan E. Carlin and Jelena Subotic), The Washington Post, August 28, 2014.
Opinion: "Colombia after the Elections," Jennifer L. McCoy, The Hill, June 20, 2014.
Quoted by Randal C. Archibold in "Incumbent's Party Loses Presidency in Panama," New York Times, May 4, 2014.
Opinion: "How to Build Voter Turnout," Jennifer L. McCoy (with Charles Hankla), The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 14, 2014.
Opinion: "Can Venezuela Back Down from the Cliff?," Jennifer L. McCoy, Aljazeera, March 13, 2014.
Opinion: "The 'Street Strategy' Deepening Venezuela's Troubles," Jennifer L. McCoy (with Michael McCarthy), The National Interest, March 5, 2014.
Opinion: "Latin America’s Experiences Offer Lessons for Postcoup Egypt," Jennifer L. McCoy, World Politics Review, July 15, 2013.
Opinion: "The Roots of Venezuela's Recount," Jennifer L. McCoy (with Michael McCarthy), The National Interest, April 25, 2013.
Interviewed in "Venezuelans Chart Post-Chavez Future in Sunday Vote," PRI's The World, April 12, 2013.
Opinion: "Venezuela Votes Again," Jennifer L. McCoy (with Michael McCarthy), The National Interest, April 10, 2013.
Opinion: "Chávez Legacy an Incomplete Revolution," Jennifer L. McCoy, USA Today, March 6, 2013.
Opinion: "Despite Uncertainty, Venezuela’s Political Scenario Not All Bleak," Jennifer L. McCoy (with Michael McCarthy), World Politics Review, December 20, 2012.
Opinion: "Beneath Chávez Victory," Jennifer L. McCoy, Financial Times, October 15, 2012.
Opinion: "The Limits of Legacy: The Post-Chávez Challenge and Electoral Legitimacy," Jennifer L. McCoy (with Michael McCarthy), Americas Quarterly, Summer 2013.


"Pernicious Polarization, Autocratization and Opposition Strategies" (with Murat Somer). Democratization (2021).

Focuses on the question of what democratic opposition actors can do to stop or reverse pernicious polarization. Summarizes how based on insights from examples across the world and deductive theory-building, along with illustrative cases, we offer a typology of potential opposition goals, strategies and tools, and then analyse how these may affect polarization and in turn democratic quality at early and late stages.

"Pitfall to Peace: FARC’s Political Participation and Mass Support for Peace Talks in Colombia" Journal of Politics in Latin America 12, no. 3 (2020): 323–44.

Addresses the question of how the prospect of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia’s (FARC’s) political participation influence citizens’ support for the peace process? Addresses this question by triangulating evidence from three separate studies: (1) regression analysis using face-to-face nationally representative survey data, as well as (2) a vignette experiment and (3) a conjoint analysis, both conducted online with national samples of Colombians.

"Overcoming Polarization" (with Murat Somer). Journal of Democracy 32, no. 1 (2021).

Discusses how around the world democracy is being undermined by elected leaders using polarizing political strategies that divide societies into mutually distrustful camps. Elaborates how polarization creates incentives for political leaders and voters alike to sacrifice democratic principles rather than risk their side losing power, and it changes the capacity of institutions designed to manage political conflict and sustain democracy.

"Polarizing Polities: A Global Threat to Democracy" (with Murat Somer). Annals of American Academy of Political and Social Sciences 681, no. 1 (2019).

Analyzes eleven country case studies of polarized polities that are, or had been, electoral democracies, identifying the common and differing causal mechanisms that lead to different outcomes for democracy when a society experiences polarization. Explores pernicious polarization, i.e., when and how a society divides into mutually distrustful “us vs. them” blocs, which endangers democracy.

"Polarization and the Global Crisis of Democracy: Common Patterns, Dynamics, and Pernicious Consequences for Democratic Polities" (with Tahmina Rahman and Murat Somer). American Behavioral Scientist 62, no. 1 (2018): 16-42.

Argues that a common pattern and set of dynamics characterizes severe political and societal polarization in different contexts around the world, with pernicious consequences for democracy.

"Déjà vu? Polarization and Endangered Democracies in the 21st Century" (with Murat Somer). American Behavioral Scientist 62, no. 1 (2018): 3-15.

Examines the complex relationship and causal direction between democracy and polarization and posits three theoretical possibilities: (1) polarization contributes to democratic backsliding and decay, (2) polarization results from democratic crisis, and (3) polarization contributes to democratic deepening. 

"Venezuela is in a Dark Place, But There is a Way Forward" Georgetown Journal of International Affairs (2017).

Discusses ways to interrupt Venezuela's slide into a failed economy and repressive state.

"Final Report: Venezuela's April 2013 Presidential Elections," The Carter Center, April 30, 2014.
Analyzes the contentious special election in Venezuela after the death of President Hugo Chávez, and the challenges to the results from the losing candidate.
"Study Mission to the October 7, 2012 Presidential Election in Venezuela," The Carter Center, September 30, 2012.
Reports on technological advancements of the Venezuelan automated voting system and the campaign inequities in the 2012 presidential elections.
"Challenges for the Collective Defense of Democracy on the Tenth Anniversary of the Inter-American Democratic Charter" Latin American Policy 3, no. 1 (2012): 33-57.
Analyzes the nature of democratic crises in Latin America 1990-2012 and the international responses to them.
"International Mediation in Venezuela" (with Francisco Diez) (US Institute of Peace Press, 2011).
Analyzes role of international mediators in the Venezuelan political conflict 2002-2004 and political developments up to 2012.
"The Chavez Challenge for Obama: An Inconvenient Marriage or Frosty Separation" in The Obama Administration and the Americas: Looking Forward, edited by Abraham F. Lowenthal, Theodore J. Piccone and Laurence Whitehead (Brookings Institute Press, 2010).
Analyzes the mutual dependence between the United States and Venezuela and the dilemmas in the relationship.
"Explaining the Success and Failure of Elections in Latin America" (with Jonathan Hartlyn and Thomas Mustillo). Comparative Political Studies 41, no. 1 (2008): 73-98.
Analyzes the impact of models of election management bodies on the quality of elections in Latin America.
The Unraveling of Representative Democracy in Venezuela (edited with David Myers) (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004).
Analyzes the unraveling of the Venezuelan democratic regime prior to Chávez, and the rise of the Chávez-led movement after 1998. This title was reprinted with a new Epilogue in 2006.