Clinton named 2024 Carnegie Fellow to study causes of political polarization

Vanderbilt University

Josh Clinton, who holds the Abby and Jon Winkelried Chair and serves as professor of political science and co-director of the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, has been named a 2024 Andrew Carnegie Foundation Fellow. He joins 27 other scholars nationwide being recognized for their research into the polarization of society and the fortification of our democracy.

Josh Clinton named Carnegie Fellow
Josh Clinton (Vanderbilt University)

Clinton’s research will explore how political polarization in the United States has harmed public confidence in election processes and outcomes. In particular, the fellowship will support Clinton’s research on geographic polarization—who can vote and how, between states and over time—and how the distribution of political power affects beliefs about the nature of democratic elections. By better understanding how and when problems emerge within a democracy, Clinton’s work will contribute to efforts seeking to identify the most effective pathways to bolster democratic trust amid rising polarization.

“Being selected as a Carnegie Fellow is a tremendous honor, and I am humbled, given the number of outstanding applications and how prestigious the selection committee was,” Clinton said. “The Carnegie Foundation’s support for my work is an important validation of the work being done at Vanderbilt, and it will provide exciting new opportunities for my research and students to speak to important foundational concerns for our country.”

“An important part of my job is to be sure that the research and teaching go hand in hand—that they are inspiring one another,” Clinton added. He will teach a course in the fall that will bring this work to the classroom, welcoming student perspectives and leveraging them over the course of the project.

Supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the fellows program provides stipends of up to $200,000 to enable each recipient to focus on their research. The foundation resumed the awards in 2024 after a one-year hiatus, marking a new phase of the program—a three-year effort to develop a body of research around the root causes of political polarization.

Within the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, Clinton serves as co-director of the Vanderbilt Poll, which provides nonpartisan, scientific assessment of public opinion in Nashville and across Tennessee. The center conducts two polls per year; the most recent one found Nashvillians largely unified on issues and positive about the city’s direction.

“Clinton’s research on societal polarization and electoral integrity tackles pressing societal challenges head-on,” said Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs C. Cybele Raver. “By delving into these critical issues, his work provides insights to navigate and mitigate divisive forces affecting elections.”

Clinton has been at Vanderbilt since 2009. In addition to being widely published, he serves in editorial roles for peer-reviewed journals in political science, public policy and legislative studies, and he has been a senior election analyst for NBC News for the last 10 years and received two Emmy nominations. He was appointed chair for the Task Force on Pre-Election Polling in the 2020 Election for the American Association of Public Opinion Research.

Clinton joins two other Carnegie Fellows serving on Vanderbilt’s faculty: Jessica Trounstine, professor of political science, and Michael Vandenberg, who holds the David Daniels Allen Distinguished Chair in Law. Four additional fellows have been recognized while on Vanderbilt faculty: Larry Bartels (University Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Law), Kristin Michelitch (former assistant professor of political science), Ganesh Sitaraman (New York Alumni Chancellor’s Chair and professor of law) and Sharece Thrower (associate professor of political science).

“This high acknowledgement of Josh’s work is extremely well-deserved,” said Timothy P. McNamara, interim dean of the College of Arts and Science. “As a leading scholar on politics, public opinion, campaigns and elections, his research has an enormous impact on our understanding of democracy and society. I am thrilled that he is being recognized with a prestigious Carnegie fellowship.”

The Andrew Carnegie Fellows Program launched in 2015 to provide support to extraordinary scholars and writers for high-caliber research in the humanities and social sciences. The program has funded almost 250 scholars in its first eight years.