Susan Stokes is the Tiffany and Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science. A leading scholar of democratic theory, Stokes is also a founding member of Bright Line Watch and as faculty director of the Chicago Center on Democracy. She is recognized for her work on democracy in developing countries, distributive politics, and comparative political behavior. Stokes was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, received a B.A. in Anthropology from Harvard University in 1981 and a PhD in Political Science from Stanford in 1988. She was has had faculty appointments at the University of Washington, the University of Chicago, and Yale, where she served as Chair of the Political Science Department and of the Council on Latin American and Iberian Studies. In 2018 she returned to the University of Chicago. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has held fellowships from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation, the American Philosophical Society, the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the McArthur Foundation.

Research Interests

Susan Stokes's research interests include democratic theory and how democracy functions in developing societies; distributive politics; and comparative political behavior. Her research has addressed questions such as why candidates sometimes run for office espousing a program which they quickly discard once elected, and why these same politicians are not always rejected by voters at reelection; why political parties sometimes run for office not with programmatic promises but with discrete individualized payments (vote buying or clientelism) and the conditions under which vote buying and clientelism decay; and why people turn out to vote and to protest, even though doing so entails risks and costs and their participation is unlikely to change the outcome. Her recent work focuses on the erosion of democracy in many countries around the world and on referendums, initiatives, and other mechanisms of direct democracy.

Membership Type


Election Year


Primary Section

Section 53: Social and Political Sciences