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Elizabeth Zechmeister

Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Political Science and Director of LAPOP

Expert in Latin American political behavior and director of the world-renowned Latin American Public Opinion Project.


Zechmeister received her Ph.D. from Duke University in 2003. Her research focuses on comparative political behavior and public opinion, in particular in Latin America. Her work includes studies of voting, ideology, political parties, representation, charisma, and crisis. Zechmeister has received support from the National Science Foundation for investigations into the public opinion consequences of terrorist threat and natural disaster, respectively. She has published articles in the American Journal of Political Science, the Journal of Politics, Comparative Political Studies, and Political Behavior, among other outlets. She is co-author of Democracy at Risk: How Terrorist Threats Affect the Public (University of Chicago Press, 2009) and Latin American Party Systems (Cambridge University Press, 2010). She is co-editor of The Latin American Voter: Pursuing Representation and Accountability in Challenging Contexts (University of Michigan Press, 2015). In 2012, she was the recipient of the Vanderbilt A&S Jeffrey Nordhaus Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and in 2015 she received the Vanderbilt Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching. Her courses focus on Latin American politics, Mexican politics, research design, and comparative political behavior and public opinion.

Media Appearances

  • Behind Latin America’s protests, a fading faith in democracy

    “Democracy has been failing to deliver on its promise,” says Elizabeth Zechmiester, who directs the Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP) at Vanderbilt University, which has tracked trends in democracy and public satisfaction in the region since 2004. “People feel less safe, more economically vulnerable, and that governments aren’t doing enough to respond to their basic needs.”

    January 13th, 2020

  • The Key Factors for Protests Around the World

    We are seeing increasing civil unrest around the world, with protests in Ecuador, Peru, Barcelona, Hong Kong, Chile, Lebanon, and Haiti, among others. While these countries have different forms of government and different circumstances, at the heart of many of these protests are the increasing level of inequality and distrust, and disgust, with the inner workings of government. Are these mass movements a tipping point?

    October 22nd, 2019

  • Latin America awash in troubles amid protests, uprisings and a distracted Washington

    “Peru and Ecuador are really interesting studies in contrast,” said Elizabeth Zechmeister, a political science professor at Vanderbilt and the director of the survey, known as LAPOP. “They are both experiencing instability but for very different reasons,” she said. In Peru, crime and corruption are dominant themes “and growing irritants in the daily lives of Peruvians,” she said. “At the same time, the ruling class is seen as corrupt and unresponsive.”

    October 17th, 2019

  • How a Vanderbilt professor is working with Facebook to understand fake news

    Facebook is offering up its data up as a gold mine for academic research with the help of Social Science One, an independent commission of experts that includes two Vanderbilt political science professors, Dr. Elizabeth Zechmeister and Dr. Noam Lupu.

    July 24th, 2018

  • Did Maduro's party really dominate Sunday's election in Venezuela? These polls should make you skeptical.

    Venezuelans went to the polls Sunday to elect 23 new state governors. According to the polling, opposition candidates aligned with the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) stood to win 13 to 16 of those states. That didn’t happen.

    October 20th, 2017

  • How terrorist attacks can change opinions and elections — including the 2016 election

    Following the deadly terrorist attacks in Lebanon and Paris last week, international terrorism has again taken center stage. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for both attacks, and has called them “the first of the storm.” In a new video released Monday, the group has threatened similar attacks on those conducting airstrikes in Syria, singling out Washington, D.C.

    June 12th, 2016

  • Exclusive: Most Americans support torture against terror suspects - Reuters/Ipsos poll

    “The public right now is coping with a host of negative emotions,” said Elizabeth Zechmeister, a Vanderbilt University professor who has studied the link between terrorist threats and public opinion. “Fear, anger, general anxiety: (Trump) gives a certain credibility to these feelings,” she said.

    March 30th, 2016

  • Poll: Most Americans back torture of 'terror' suspects

    "The public right now is coping with a host of negative emotions," said Elizabeth Zechmeister, a Vanderbilt University professor who has studied the link between attack threats and public opinion. "Fear, anger, general anxiety: [Trump] gives a certain credibility to these feelings," she said.

    March 30th, 2016


Ph.D., Duke University

M.A., University of Chicago

B.A., Loyola University Chicago


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