Michelle Dunbar

 Michelle Dunbar
Mentor: Dr. Charles Wood
Center for Latin American Studies
"I came to the University of Florida with a strong interest in Latin America. After taking one of Professor Wood's classes, I discovered many areas of interest, specifically those dealing with Latin America's transition to democracy as of late and how the history and current violence of this area has affected the process of establishing such type of government. By completing this research I hope to gain a better understanding of this development and the ways in which the violence and crime that plagues this region influence it."


International Studies



Research Interests

  • Political Culture in Latin America
  • Affects of Latin American History on Current Regimes
  • The Role of Violence on the Future of Latin America

Academic Awards

  • UF University Scholars Program
  • Dean's List
  • President's Honor Roll
  • Florida Bright Futures


  • Golden Key
  • National Society of Collegiate Scholars
  • UF Equestrian Club


  • Florida Alternative Breaks
  • Homeless Emergency Project

Hobbies and Interests

  • Horseback Riding
  • Tennis
  • Photography
  • Cycling

Research Description

Crime, Violence and the Threat to Democracy in Latin America
After a long history of authoritarian rule in Latin America, the transition to democratic governance that began in the late 1980s has been severely challenged by the increase in criminality which has, to one degree or another, taken place in every country in the region. The crime has severe economic and political consequences. The total monetary cost reaches 14.2 percent of the entire region's GDP. Spending on private security strains the government's budget as well as masks the difference between private security and government security. The lack of trust by citizens has a debilitating effect on the fledgling democracies and as a result, public support for heavy-handed populists and a tolerance of human rights abuses have increased. My research will empirically test the effects of crime victimization on democratic political culture in Latin America, with the data coming from the 2010 Latin American Public Opinion Survey. Measures of political attitudes will be derived from responses to questions about rule of law, trust in police, and various indicators of confidence in the government and judiciary. Using multivariate statistical techniques to control for socio-demographic variables such as age, gender, education, and income, I will test the hypothesis that victims of crime will be less likely to endorse the values and attitudes associated with the political culture of a liberal democratic state. The findings have potentially important implications for understanding the challenges to the consolidation of democratic regimes in Latin America.