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Democratic Threats and Resilience

“The case for democracy is simple: Democracy is the only political system that institutionalizes protections for minority voices while also protecting the rights of journalists, citizens, and opposition leaders to criticize their government,” Einaudi’s Thomas Pepinsky recently argued in Brookings.

“The political criticism and meaningful dissent that democracies encourage is an existential threat to any authoritarian regime.”

Researchers across the Einaudi Center are monitoring evolving democratic norms and threats to democracy in the United States and around the world. This work is vital today, as our ability to address a range of global challenges—from pandemics and climate change to human rights—often hinges on the strength of representative institutions that provide voice and access to diverse societal interests and actors.

U.S. Capitol behind caution tape

Focus on Research: Global Threats to Democracy 

Military coups or social revolutions have not been the driving forces behind most contemporary democratic breakdowns. Unlike these decisive acts of regime change, recent frays in the democratic fabric have at first been easier to miss. They begin when leaders and parties use democratic institutions—courts, parliaments, the media—to concentrate power, marginalize opponents, and whittle away at a system’s checks and balances.

Latin America, Europe, Africa, and Southeast Asia have all experienced the rise of leaders, movements, and parties—often characterized as “populist”—that operate within democratic institutions while challenging their norms and conventions. Einaudi Center researchers are working together to identify the factors that make democratic institutions vulnerable to internal subversion and, more importantly, the conditions under which they are resilient. Read more below about our key research areas.

Warning: Autocracy

iStock police officers surround demonstrators (Brazil)

How can grassroots movements and civil society institutions resist the rise of autocratic regimes? 


Ecuador President Rafael Correa speaking in 2009

Which inequalities and cultural conflicts aid populist challengers and deepen polarization?

Regime Cleavage

October 2019: Kurdish protestors march in London, against the Turkish state’s invasion of Syria.

Under what conditions do citizens lose faith in political institutions—and even democracy itself?

 Get Involved at Einaudi

Hands holding placing a voting ballot into a receptacle.

Apply Now for Global Public Voices

Due October 13: Apply to join Global Public Voices!

As a Global Public Voices fellow, you’ll receive training and mentoring to expand your reach and share your expertise with wider U.S. and global audiences. Working with international partners, including faculty at Cornell Global Hubs, you’ll increase the public impact of your knowledge. This year's theme: democratic threats and resilience.

Democratic Threats in the Media 

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Ken Roberts headshot

Kenneth Roberts: Democratic Threats Faculty Fellow 

Kenneth Roberts leads Einaudi’s democratic threats and resilience research priority in academic years 2022–24. If you're a researcher interested in contributing, please reach out by email.

Read about his work with the new Cornell Global Hub in Ecuador.

Scholars Under Threat

Global Cornell leads campus and community support for international scholars, students, and human-rights defenders whose work puts them at risk in their home countries. The Einaudi Center hosts the visitors during their time at Cornell, providing a welcoming intellectual community, collaborators and connections, and opportunities to build a sustainable career in the United States. Einaudi is currently hosting Dmitry Bykov (IES).


American Democracy Collaborative