Just A Thought

Author: Peter Baltes

Just A ThoughtUniversity of Notre Dame

Dr. Luis Schiumerini is an assistant professor of political science at Notre Dame. Dr. Schiumerini also serves as a research associate at the Center for the Politics of Development at UC Berkeley, as well as a board member of the Argentine Panel Election Study 2015. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in political science from Universidad Torcuato Di Tella in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and his doctorate in political science from Yale University. Previously, he served as a Postdoctoral Prize Research Fellow in Politics at Nuffield College and University of Oxford, as well as a postdoctoral associate and Kellogg Visiting Fellow at the University of Notre Dame. The author of multiple published and forthcoming articles in academic journals, Schiumerini is currently producing a book manuscript exploring the effects of incumbency in Latin American elections.


What inspired you to focus your research and writing on the topic of incumbency in Latin American elections?

I have always been interested in democratic representation and accountability, the ability of citizens to hold politicians accountable for their actions, and to aggregate their preferences accurately. I got interested in incumbency advantage and disadvantage in particular because, in grad school I was reading a lot about American politics, where incumbency advantage is a very well-known phenomenon. I was working with David Mayhew, who is one of the inventors of this concept, so that was kind of an academic motivation. On the other hand, I noticed that the question itself hadn’t been properly addressed in Latin American politics. Why do incumbents systematically win elections? This is where I was coming from politically, because that’s the case in Argentina. Then, as I started doing research on the project I found that, actually, in some countries, the opposite happens. Incumbents tend to lose elections, as in Brazil and India.


How would you characterize your methodology and the types of sources you have used in the project thus far?

I’m primarily a quantitative researcher. I use large data sets to analyze questions, so I use statistics ... However, I more specifically like to analyze quantitative data [via] experiments, natural experiments that try to estimate the effects of the issues that I’m interested in, such as incumbency or fiscal resources in a way that resembles what an experiment would look like in a lab ... I also do qualitative research. I conduct interviews to try to understand what politicians are thinking, what led them to do what they did and what they perceive their situation to be, particularly what makes incumbency an advantage or a disadvantage.


How would you describe the overall experience of researching and writing this manuscript?

It’s a slightly different project than it started out. It started out as a dissertation, because that’s something that you start doing and thinking about when you’re in grad school. That means that at first you make a lot of mistakes, take some wrong paths. It started out like that. I did fieldwork in Brazil, Argentina and Chile as I was in grad school. [I spent a lot of time] being abroad, interviewing people, gathering data ... organizing surveys and designing questionnaires. But then ... there is a stage of looking back at what I need to do next, what I did wrong, what I have to own. I would say it’s a lot of trial and error and constant investigation. It’s a difficult process and also a difficult question to actually answer in a succinct way.