Michael Berkman


Director for the Penn State McCourtney Institute for Democracy,
Professor of Political Science


  • Politics & Policy

Focus Areas:

  • American Politics
  • Democracy
  • Elections
  • State Politics


  • Berkman specializes in American and state politics and policymaking.
  • He directs the McCourtney Institute for Democracy and can speak about the 2024 presidential election and the potential impacts for American democracy.
  • He has published three books on state education policy and can speak about book banning efforts and the intersection of politics and public education.

Michael Berkman is a professor in the department of political science and the director of the McCourtney Institute for Democracy and director of the Center for American Political Responsiveness (CAPR), a center of excellence within the McCourtney Institute for Democracy. Berkman’s research focuses on American politics, particularly American state politics and policy.

Along with his colleague, Eric Plutzer, Berkman has published two books on state education policy: “Evolution, Creationism and the Battle to Control America’s Classrooms” (Cambridge University Press) and “Ten Thousand Democracies: Politics and Public Opinion in America’s School Districts” (Georgetown University Press). His first book, “The State Roots of National Politics: Congress and the Tax Agenda, 1978–1986,” (Pittsburgh University Press) looked at how state policies influence national politics.

In The Media

“I would say that part of the game plan here is to just sort of discredit schools and to discredit the public school system.”

"I think that the thing to remember about democratic erosion is that it's most likely to happen from within."

"How does this happen? The most important reason is that these future teachers were not focused on mastering science. This emerged most clearly when we asked what would be their most important asset in covering a controversial topic such as climate change or evolution: understanding the science, or having classroom management skills to deal with the controversial topic."

New poll: only 3% of Trump voters regret their vote

from Washington Post November 30, 2018

"Only three individuals (fewer than 1 percent of Trump voters) said that, could they go back in time, they would cast their vote for Clinton. Seven said they would vote for one of the minor-party candidates. When we asked why, most regretful Trump voters pointed specifically to his performance as president. (Misspellings are original.)"

Has the Tide Turned Against Partisan Gerrymandering?

from The Atlantic January 23, 2018

“It’s been a very effective partisan gerrymander,” said Michael Berkman, director of the McCourtney Institute for Democracy at Penn State. “Republicans have had a challenging time if you look at it at the state level. Democrats clearly hold an advantage in the state, but they have just been destroyed in the legislature.”

Michael Berkman, a political scientist at Penn State, says the Trump phenomenon took his field by surprise. "One thing that occurred to me, and I don't think I'm alone on this in political science, is the extent to which we missed it," Berkman said. "I think we might have been more in tune to what was going on on the left in American politics than we were to what was going on in the right."

Biden Leans on Pennsylvania as Campaign Season Goes Full Throttle

from U.S. News & World Report September 5, 2022

“So they see Pennsylvania as critical to 2024, and of course our Senate race is critical to maintaining control of the Senate.”

In Penn State News

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Michael Berkman is interviewed for a segment that aired on CBS Sunday Morning on Oct. 30, 2022

Credit: CBS News

President Barron and Penn State experts discuss what a new poll is revealing about the U.S. electorate. Guests: Eric Plutzer, directorof the McCourtney Mood of the Nation poll, and Michael Berkman, director of the McCourtney Institute for Democracy.

Credit: Penn State

Credit: Penn State

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