Michael J. Nelson

  Welcome! I'm a Professor of Political Science and Head of the Department of Political Science at Penn State. I am also Affiliate Faculty at Penn State Law and direct the Initiative on Legal Institutions and Democracy (ILIAD) in the McCourtney Institute for Democracy. Additionally, I serve as the President of the State Politics & Policy Section of APSA.

I study and teach about law and courts, with particular attention to the public's support of courts in democracies, especially the United States. I have written four books: The Elevator Effect: Contact and Collegiality in the American Judiciary (winner of the C. Herman Pritchett award from APSA's Law and Courts Section), Judging Inequality (winner of the Virginia Gray award from APSA's State Politics and Policy Section and the C. Herman Pritchett award from APSA's Law and Courts Section), Black and Blue: African Americans and Legal Legitimacy, and The Politics of Federal Prosecution. Articles I have writen have been published in outlets including the American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, International Studies Quarterly, Journal of Law and Courts, Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, Political Research Quarterly, Public Opinion Quarterly, State Politics & Policy Quarterly, and the Vanderbilt Law Review. My research has been supported by both the National Science Foundation and the Russell Sage Foundation.

I received my Ph.D. from the Department of Political Science at Washington University in St. Louis. Before going to graduate school, I received a B.A. in Politics and English from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.