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Reception and Lecture at the National Press Club in Washington DC

Sep 13, 2016

Penn State's McCourtney Institute for Democracy and Center for American Political Responsiveness will host a reception and lecture on Tuesday, September 20th at the National Press Club in Washington DC. The event will feature a presentation from Jennifer Lawless of American University. Her talk will reference her research—and latest book—on young people and their reluctance to run for office. Please RSVP to if you are interested in attending.

CAPR Professor Eric Plutzer in the News: Survey Shows Science Teachers Struggle to Teach Climate Change

Mar 10, 2016

CAPR Professor Eric Plutzer recently released his survey findings that science teachers are struggling to adequately cover the topic of climate change. He and his colleagues found that only about 30 percent of middle and high school teachers are teaching that climate change is happening and has mostly been caused by humans. This leaves students misinformed about the strong scientific consensus on climate change. "I think the message that students take away is that this is unsettled, that this is a matter of opinion and everyone is entitled to their opinion, and the details of evidence are not being presented in a way that is consistent with the scientific record,” Plutzer said.

These findings were highlighted in a number of newspaper outlets, including The New York Times, U.S. News and World Report, and The Washington Post, as well as being featured on NPR's All Things Considered podcast.


Announcing the Fifth Annual CAPR Mini- Conference: Activism and American Political Parties

Jan 02, 2016

We are pleased to announce our fifth annual mini-conference centered on the theme Activism and American Political Parties.  With the 2016 Elections dominated by large personalities, it is easy to forget the context that the candidates campaign in, like the emergence of Black Lives Matters, increasing salience of immigration, and heightened rhetoric on issues like gun violence. The 2016 CAPR Conference focuses in on these issues and the ever-evolving role of political parties as they frame campaigns and elections. 

The conference will begin on February 26th at 4:00 p.m. with a public keynote address by Dr. David Karol, associate professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland.  He will speak on the current status of the 2016 presidential campaigns with his talk entitled "Parties, Activists and Presidential Nominations: 2016 in Perspective." This event will be held in Foster auditorium and is free and open to the public.

We will continue the discussion on activism and parties on Saturday starting at 8:45 a.m. in 302 Pond Laboratory. Speakers include; Dr. Michael Heaney (University of Michigan), Dr. Ricardo Ramirez (Notre Dame), Dr. Kristin Goss (Duke University), and Dr. Lee Ann Banaszak, Head of the Department of Political Science at Penn State.

To RSVP to Saturday's conference, please contact Amanda Parks at

CAPR to host special event in Washington D.C.

Oct 06, 2015

The Center for American Political Responsiveness invites you to a special presentation in Washington D.C at the University of California, Washington Center. Dr. Darrell West will present on "Wealth and Democracy in American Elections." Dr. West is the Douglas Dillon chair of governance studies at the Brookings Institute and author of Billionaires: Reflections on the Upper Crust.

The event will begin with a reception at 5:30 p.m., followed by presentation and Q&A at 6:30 p.m.. Please RSVP by October 13th to Amanda Parks at

CAPR Professors publish in Washington Post: "Why Science Professors Sow Doubt about Evolution (even when they don't mean to)"

Feb 24, 2015

Dr. Michael Berkman, CAPR director, and Dr. Eric Plutzer wrote about their recent research on evolution in the classroom in the Washington Post's political blog, The Monkey Cage.

In surveys and a series of focus groups with future science teachers (college students) they address a series of crucial questions, including:

How is it possible that young people who major in a scientific field and desire to be science educators lack confidence in their understanding of a central principle of modern biology? Where do teachers develop their belief that they are obligated to be “fair” to nonscientific accounts of creation? And how critical is personal faith in the development of the pedagogical choices that they will make over many years in the classroom?

For more, read the entire article here.

Research by CAPR Professor featured on NPR's Morning Edition

Nov 03, 2014

Professor Peter Hatemi's article in the September 2014  edition of the American Journal of Political Science was featured on NPR's weekend edition.  Find the full story here.

CAPR Professor Will Give Live Election Updates on WPSU

Oct 31, 2014

Dr. Michael Berkmann will join the WPSU news team for live updates on Election Night. Listen to his expert analysis of the election results on 91.5 or go the WPSU homepage here to listen online.

CAPR sponsors Pre-Election Event in Washington D.C.

Oct 12, 2014

This year CAPR is sponsoring it's first pre-election event. Thomas Mann, the W. Averall Harriman Chair and Brookings Institution Fellow, will be giving a talk titled, "Why is Our Politics and Governance So Dysfunctional? Is There a Way Out of this Mess?" The event will be held at the University of California Washington Center (1608 Rhode Island Avenue, NW). Cocktails and light appetizers will be served at 6:30pm and the presentation and Q&A will start at 7:15pm.

Please RSVP to Amanda Parks by October 21st -

Find out more about Dr. Thomas Mann here.

Center for Global Workers' Rights Conference May 10 in Philadelphia

The Center for Global Workers’ Rights, is pleased to announce an upcoming event, taking place in Philadelphia on May 10 titled, “The Global Spirit of Philadelphia: The ILO, Economic Security, Political Freedom and Labor Rights in the 21st Century.”

Apr 16, 2014

One of The McCourtney Institute for Democracy's research partners, The Center for Global Workers’ Rights, is pleased to announce an upcoming event, taking place in Philadelphia on May 10 titled, “The Global Spirit of Philadelphia: The ILO, Economic Security, Political Freedom and Labor Rights in the 21st Century.” It will be held at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania (3355 Woodland Walk, Philadelphia, PA - between Walnut and Sansom) and is free and open to the public. Since the event is held on graduation day  it will be also presented via live streaming:

The Global Spirit of Philadelphia (flyer)

The McCourtney Institute for Democracy

Penn State Democracy Center receives $3 million gift and will rename the center to the McCourtney Institute for Democracy.

Apr 16, 2014

UNIVERSITY PARK, PA. -- Penn State 2013 Philanthropists of the Year Tracy and Ted McCourtney have endowed the Penn State Institute for Democracy with a transformative gift of $3 million that will enable the institute to pursue excellence and leadership in advancing the cause of democracy.

Their gift provides the institute with a permanent endowment that will help fund student and faculty research and public outreach programs that aspire to elevate the quality of public and policy makers’ discussions of important public concerns. In response to the couple’s tremendous generosity, the University will name the Institute in their honor: The McCourtney Institute for Democracy.

A 1965 English graduate, Tracy McCourtney said, “Ted and I are very excited about the innovative work being done by outstanding Penn State students and faculty in the Institute. Our society needs to reverse the trend of gridlock politics throughout the U.S., and we believe that the institute will help advance the best practices of effective democracies and motivate not only Penn State students, but also lawmakers, policymakers and citizens to elevate governing in our country.”

“Tracy and Ted have been leading benefactors to the college for nearly two decades with their visionary gifts for many college priorities, including the Richards Civil War Era Center,” said Susan Welch, Dean of the College of the Liberal Arts. “Their latest gift gives us a tremendous opportunity to make the College of the Liberal Arts and Penn State the epicenter of innovations in democracy. We are deeply grateful for Tracy and Ted’s dedication and support of the college.”

John Gastil, director of the McCourtney Institute for Democracy, noted, “Faculty and students engaged with the institute are seeking to address difficult issues from two perspectives: first, encouraging civil discussions and rhetoric aimed at solving problems, and then, helping to understand the appropriate balance among government responsiveness, majority rule, and minority rights. We thank Ted and Tracy very much.”

After her graduation from Penn State, Tracy assisted foster children and families in New York City as a social worker. A 1960 Notre Dame engineering graduate, Ted served four years in the U.S. Navy and then earned a master of business administration degree from Harvard in 1966. For 30 years, he was a general partner at Venrock, a pioneering venture capital fund in emerging technologies and health care. Now an independent investor, Ted served on Notre Dame's Board of Trustees and remains an emeritus trustee.

The McCourtneys' philanthropy at the University of Notre Dame and Penn State has had a lasting impact on students and faculty at both schools. Their four children are involved in careers in social services, education, and business, as well.

“Tracy and Ted McCourtney are an ideal philanthropic partnership. Their professional careers have reflected a commitment to investing in people, whether in business or in families. Their many gifts to Penn State reflect a marriage of compassion and vision, one which has had a profound impact on Penn State and, especially, on the College of the Liberal Arts,” said Penn State President Rodney Erickson.

Over the years, the McCourtneys endowed three undergraduate scholarships, which have helped more than 350 liberal arts students; fellowships and scholarships for graduate students in social sciences and humanities; and faculty professorships in psychology, sociology and American history. The couple also provided critical support for the Moore Building renovation and addition that is benefiting psychology faculty and students; a lead gift to a graduate endowment in honor of Dean Welch; and a fund for the Career Enrichment Network to help students land their first job or succeed in professional or advanced studies after graduation.

In 2013, Penn State honored Tracy and Ted McCourtney with the Philanthropists of the Year Award and inducted them into the Elm Circle of the Mount Nittany Society, which is the highest level of recognition for philanthropy.

The McCourtneys’ newest gift will help the College of the Liberal Arts reach its goals in For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students. This effort is directed toward a shared vision of Penn State as the most comprehensive, student-centered research university in America. The University is engaging Penn State’s alumni and friends as partners in achieving six key objectives: ensuring student access and opportunity, enhancing honors education, enriching the student experience, building faculty strength and capacity, fostering discovery and creativity, and sustaining the University’s tradition of quality.  The campaign’s top priority is keeping a Penn State degree affordable for students and families. The For the Future campaign is the most ambitious effort of its kind in Penn State’s history, with the goal of securing $2 billion by June 30, 2014.