Tackling the big questions.

Societies in all regions of the world face unprecedented challenges. Globalization and economic uncertainty, immigration, asymmetric security threats, energy dependence and the environment, health care provision, poverty, and polarization of electorates are among the issues that test our understanding of how human communities function.

In the MIT Department of Political Science, we see in these challenges the opportunity to conduct innovative, high-impact research. We believe that the strongest theoretical models emerge through observations in the field. From voting booths in the U.S. to the villages of Afghanistan and China to town forums in Liberia and Bangladesh, our goal is to advance the dialogue of political science by comparing empirical phenomena with scholarly insights into how societies work. In the process, we are developing alternative uses for existing methodologies and inventing new ones.

Here are a few of the issues we are grappling with:

  • What factors are most influential in determining a voter's choice of candidate?
  • Why do citizens comply with government regulations in non-democratic societies?
  • How can great external powers influence the outcomes of civil conflicts?
  • How do current survey and polling methodologies skew the resulting data?
  • What are the organizational patterns of opposition groups in conflict zones?
  • What are the dynamics of regional nuclear powers in our post-Cold War world?