Leslie E. Anderson

Professor of Political Science, University of Florida

About Leslie

Anderson’s scholarly and teaching expertise is in the study of democracy and democratic development in previously-authoritarian settings outside the United States. Her research has focused upon Latin America; her teaching focuses upon Latin America, Europe and Africa. She can help policymakers understand why democracy is not functioning better in Latin America and has many ideas about how the United States could assist specific countries to become more democratic. U.S. assistance needs to go toward fortifying party competition and toward improving electoral fairness. Anderson has a long history of involvement with civic groups that support democratic development in Latin America, such as sister city projects.


In the News

Opinion: "Red and Blue States Offer Different Experiences for Citizens," Leslie E. Anderson, The Gainesville Sun, February 26, 2019.
Opinion: "A Perspective on Living in a Red State vs. a Blue State," Leslie E. Anderson, The Daily Camera, February 16, 2019.
Opinion: "Take Election Lessons from Nicaragua," Leslie E. Anderson, The Gainesville Sun, November 18, 2000.
Opinion: "Argentina's Ills Much Like Ours," Leslie E. Anderson, The Daily Camera, September 29, 1994.
Opinion: "Municipal Elections, Managua, Nicaragua, 2000," Leslie E. Anderson, The Partisan, Spring 2001.


"Electoral Competition and Democratic Decline in Nicaragua: Uncovering an Electorally Viable Platform for the Right" (with Lawrence C. Dodd and Won-ho Park). Democratization 24, no. 6 (2017): 970-986.

Explores how Nicaragua's democratic breakdown might have been avoided had the right united with a viable, attractive electoral platform.  Uses experimental research to pinpoint what electoral platform would have received widespread electoral support and allowed the right to defeat Daniel Ortega.

"International Contributions to Nicaraguan Democracy: The Role of Foreign Municipal Donations for Social Development" (with Won-Ho Park ). Oxford Journals (2016).

Speaks to International Relations and comparative politics by suggesting that, under sequencing conditions that grant political autonomy first, local government can be democratic and can be an effective recipient for aid. Explores the Nicaraguan case where these conditions prevailed to show how this scenario can unfold.

" Democratization by Institutions: Argentina's Transition Years in Comparative Perspective" (University of Michigan Press, 2016).

Considers how well (or how inadequately) the Madisonian institutional system copied from the United States serves as a blueprint for democratic transition in new democracies.  Finds in formerly authoritarian societies where civil society is weak and social trust low, institutions may be the best resource for democratization. Considers how the system of a bicameral legislature and a separately-elected executive was not originally designed to spearhead the movement from authoritarianism to democracy so it is an adequate but imperfect solution which accounts both for Argentina's democratization and the limits to its democratic progress.

"Social Capital in Developing Democracy: Nicaragua and Argentina Compared" (Cambridge University Press, 2010).
Helps readers understand why civil society contributes positively to the development of democracy in Nicaragua but does not contribute to democracy in Argentina and, in fact, has often helped undermine democracy there. In the face of non-democratic input from civil society, the book shows how institutions can help develop democracy in Argentina and are the nation’s only real hope for meaningful democratization.
"Poverty and Political Empowerment: Local Citizen Political Participation as a Path toward Social Justice in Nicaragua" The Forum on Public Policy 6, no. 4 (2010): 1-19.
Explains what is happening with civil society and citizen participation at the local (municipal) level in Nicaragua and shows how citizen participation at the local level can help democratic development in that country.
"The Problem of Single-Party Predominance in an Unconsolidated Democracy: The Example of Argentina" Perspectives on Politics 7, no. 4 (2009): 767-784.
Spells out how essential party competition is in developing democracies. The article shows how a lack of party competition can spell disaster for democracies and points toward actions that can be taken to enhance electoral competitiveness among opposition parties.
"Fascists or Revolutionaries? Left and Right Politics of the Rural Poor" International Political Science Review 27, no. 2 (2006): 191-214.
Takes a cross-national and historical approach comparing right-wing and fascist politics across Europe and Latin America and considers the reasons underlying that type of popular sentiment. It is relevant to concerns about anti-democratic popular sentiments in Argentina, France, Austria, Venezuela and any place where popular politics poses a threat to democracy. (A longer version of this essay was published in Spain, in Politica y Sociedad, in 2001).
"Learning Democracy: Citizen Engagement and Electoral Choice in Nicaragua, 1990-2001" (with Lawrence C. Dodd) (University of Chicago Press, 2005).
Explores the democratization processes that grew out of the Sandinista Revolution and examines explanations for the unexpected turn away from the revolutionary government in 1990 and towards a center-right regime through mass electoral participation. In the process, the book demonstrates how impoverished, undereducated citizens can accomplish momentous political change non-violently and points to the dilemmas that deep-seated division on the right could pose for democracy in Nicaragua.
"The Political Ecology of the Modern Peasant: Calculation and Community" (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994).
Offers a theory about popular politics and political motivation among the poor which combines two theories (rational choice and the moral economy) that had been, up to this time, in opposition to each other. Shows that individual self-interest and community concerns blend into an original new theory that allows policy makers to understand and influence popular political action in a more realistic, holistic, and constructive manner than did either previous theory alone.