Jessie Trudeau receives the 2022 Franklin L. Burdette/Pi Sigma Alpha Award –

The Franklin L. Burdette/Pi Sigma Alpha Prize is awarded annually by the American Political Science Association (APSA) to honor the best paper presented at the previous year’s annual meeting.

by Jessie Trudeau the work covers comparative politics and political economy, with a substantial focus on crime, violence, inequality and corruption. She has completed her doctorate. in government in 2022 from Harvard University and is a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Brown University. In the fall of 2023, she will begin an assistant professorship of political science at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Public Affairs and Citizenship. Jessie’s research sheds light on how electoral politics works in the presence of organized crime. His book project Machine Gun Politics: Why Politicians Cooperate With Criminal Groups, explains what politicians can gain by associating with criminal actors. This project brings together a quasi-experimental study of voting, an original criminal governance database, and 18 months of extensive fieldwork in a mixed-methods study in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Working papers from his dissertation recently won awards from the American Political Science Association (APSA) and the Latin American Studies Association (LASA). Another body of recent work focuses on the implications of public security on inequality and violence, and was referenced in Brazilian Supreme Court testimony regarding the legality of police raids. His work has been published or is to be published in Global Development, Economy, and The Washington Post, and was funded by the Corporación Andino de Fomiento (CAF), the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies (DRCLAS), the Harvard Brazil Cities Initiative, the Foundations of Human Behavior Initiative (FHB), the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and the Institute for Quantitative Social Sciences.

Quote from the award committee:

The committee is pleased to award the 2022 Franklin R. Burdette/Pi Sigma Alpha Award to Jessie Trudeau for “Machine Gun Politics: Why Politicians Cooperate with Criminal Groups”. This paper stands out as the top paper presented at the American Political Science Association’s 2021 Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington. Trudeau’s paper is a fantastic contribution to the study of state-criminal interactions in Latin America, estimating the extent of criminal influence on voting beyond descriptive research.

Trudeau’s main contribution is a greater depth in our understanding of criminal domination in electoral politics and its implications for inequality and violence. Trudeau’s analysis provides evidence of how criminal governance affects electoral competition: by supplying voters and restricting access to candidacy. These results have important implications for access to elections and criminal governance.

This study is multi-method, first drawing on an original database on criminal governance in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which shows which criminal groups governed favelas from 2015 to 2020, and comparing it to data of voters, demonstrating that the vote differs when criminal groups are present. Specifically, crime-dominated favelas have higher voter turnout and lower levels of electoral competition. Further, Trudeau supplements these findings with 18 months of field research with more than 50 candidates for local and state legislative office, their employees, members of criminal groups, and residents of crime-dominated communities.

The article is masterfully written, methodologically innovative and perfectly argued. The document offers a high level of detail and takes its audience through the theory in a strategic way. Overall, this study has broad implications in political science as it helps to better understand elections and democracy in contexts where criminal groups govern.

APSA thanks Pi Sigma Alpha for supporting the award and committee members for their services: Dr. Mario Guerrero (president) of California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, Dr. Alexander George Theodoridis of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and Dr. Aubrey Westfall of Wheaton College.

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