Sandra Ley, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Country: Mexico

About Me:

I am an assistant professor in the Political Studies Division at Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas (CIDE) in Mexico City. My research analyzes the impact of criminal violence on the exercise of democratic citizenship in Latin America, with central emphasis on Mexico. I also study the linkages between democracy and organized crime. 

Research Interests

Crime Politics

Political Participation

Political Violence

Latin American And Caribbean Politics

Specific Areas of Interest

Organized Crime

Elections And Turnout

Civil Society Organisations

Countries of Interest


My Research:

My work examines how variations in the level of criminal violence condition the activation of civil society networks, citizen participation, and electoral accountability. I find that even as victims take to the streets to demand peace and justice, violence threatens the electorate as a whole and reduces incentives to take part in elections. Moreover, electoral accountability amid violence requires voters to be able to assign responsibility for crime. Given such a difficult task, voters hold politicians accountable for insecurity in the narrow circumstances of organized crime-related violence and partisan alignment across levels of government.My individual and co-authored work has been published in Comparative Political Studies, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Latin American Politics, Election Law Journal and Política y gobierno. 


Journal Articles:

(2017) To Vote or Not to Vote: How Criminal Violence Shapes Electoral Participation, Journal of Conflict Resolution

Tags: Crime Politics, Elections, Election Administration, and Voting Behavior, Political Participation

Organized crime-related violence has important electoral consequences. Analyses of aggregate panel data on Mexican elections and an original post-electoral survey conducted in Mexico show that the strategic use of violence by organized crime groups during electoral campaigns demobilizes voters at large. Regions where criminal organizations attempted to influence elections and politics by targeting government officials and party candidates exhibited significantly lower levels of electoral participation. Consistently, at the individual level, results reveal that voters living in regions where organized crime engaged in high-profile violence were more cautious when deciding whether to vote or not. Prior research has focused on the role of crime victimization in non-electoral participation, but the empirical evidence presented here suggests that the impact of a criminal context on turnout transcends personal victimization experiences.

(2017) Security and Crime Issue Voting: Electoral Accountability in the Midst of Violence, Latin American Politics and Society

Tags: Crime Politics, Elections, Election Administration, and Voting Behavior

Rising levels of crime and insecurity affect quality of life. A fundamental question for the prospects of democracy is whether voters, in hopes of reaching better solutions to conditions of prevailing insecurity, can hold their elected officials accountable for such situations. This article argues that electoral accountability amid criminal violence requires voters to be able to assign responsibility for crime and that partisan alignment across levels of government facilitates this task. Recent Mexican elections are examined in order to test this argument. Relying on both aggregate electoral data and individual survey evidence, this paper shows that voters hold politicians accountable for crime in the narrow circumstances of organized crime-related violence and political alignment. This evidence not only provides additional caveats to issue voting models, but also opens new avenues of research on electoral accountability.