In my dissertation, I investigate public security policy in the Americas, with particular attention paid to the way in which political actors conceptualize, propose, and pursue related agendas. I do so via a subnational analysis of the case of Brazil, a country with comparatively high levels of violence and issue salience among the electorate, but where public security realities and political dynamics vary substantially across federal units. This work, however, speaks to a variety of contexts where public security is salient and politicians often campaign on the issue, such as Mexico (Romero et al 2016; Ley 2017) and the United States (Gunderson 2022; Joshi 2022).

In Part One, I break down the literature and past traditions regarding concepts and measures for public security. I offer a new way in which to consider and measure public security policy proposals, one which is largely divorced from ideology. I argue this is more accurate and has greater predictive power. In Part Two, I analyze the forces which influence politicians – primarily candidates for governor – to campaign on different public security proposals, focusing on state-level contextual factors (e.g., violence, police lethality) and the political power of the police. In Part Three, I examine how elected officials act with regard to public security. I do this by 1) leveraging fine-grained administrative data regarding both public security spending and incarceration and 2) examining executive relations between governors and police forces, namely by their direct placement within gubernatorial cabinets.

My work relies on a mixed-methods approach, leveraging both a variety of computational social science techniques and in-depth, qualitative fieldwork. Quantitatively, I take advantage of rich sources of text data, including political candidate manifestos and social media rhetoric during four national elections. I also use fine-grained administrative data, including data from Brazil’s Superior Electoral Tribunal, state-level budgetary data, and data regarding incarceration rates by demographic subgroups across subnational units. Qualitatively, I engage in seven months of fieldwork across three Brazilian states during the 2022 national election season, completing about 100 expert interviews with key public security stakeholders.


State-Level Citizen Response to COVID-19 Containment Measures in Brazil and Mexico, with Claire Dunn. The Journal of Politics in Latin America, 2021.

  • Covered in The Washington Post
  • Recipient of the Best Paper Award from LASA’s Subnational Politics and Society Section (2022)

Political Engagement and Crime Victimization: A Causal Analysis, Revista Latinoamericana de Opinión Publica, 2021.

Working Papers & Papers in Preparation

Progressive Ideology and Support for Punitive Crime Policy: Evidence from Brazil and Argentina, [Working Paper] [Appendix], Revise & Resubmit at Comparative Political Studies

Who is to Blame? Youth Crime and Attribution of Responsibility in Urban Mexico, with Omar García-Ponce, Vivian Bronsoler, Elisa Lavore, & Shahriar Kibriya, Under Review [Working Paper] [Appendix]

The Legacy of Mexico’s Drug War on Youth Political Attitudes, with Omar García-Ponce, Under Review [Working Paper] [Appendix]

The `Tough-on-Crime’ Left: Race, Gender, and Elections of Law and Order Democrats, with Leah Christiani

Estimating Actual Crime Rates and the ‘Dark Figure’ of Crime Using Bayesian Additive Regression Trees Plus Poststratification (BARP)

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