Frederic C. Schaffer
Professor of Political Science
My area of specialization is comparative politics. Substantively, I study the meaning of democracy, the practice of voting, and the administration of elections. What sets much of my work apart from other empirical research on democracy is a methodological focus on language. By investigating carefully the differing ways in which ordinary people around the world use terms such as "democracy," "politics," or "vote buying" - or their rough equivalents in other languages - I aim to arrive at a fuller appreciation of how they understand and make use of electoral institutions. This richer appreciation, I believe, is both intrinsically interesting and crucial to tackling real-world political problems. A good deal of my research, to be more specific, has taken up three basic but understudied questions: (1) Does democracy, when translated, mean what we think it does? (2) Why do attempts to make elections less fraudulent and error-prone so often backfire? (3) What exactly is vote buying, why is it bad, and can it be reformed away?