Gabriella Levy

Hello! I am a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science at Duke University, and I am on the market in the 2021-2022 academic year. In my work, I seek to understand the ways in which people interpret, evaluate, and respond to various forms of political violence, ranging from civilian targeting to vigilante punishment to the targeted assassinations of civil society leaders.

My dissertation is a book project motivated by the following puzzle: why do people sometimes support armed actors that target civilians? Its theory integrates three dimensions: the violence, the context in which it occurs, and people’s bias. First, I theorize that people will support perpetrators whose engagement in abuse suggests that they are relatively moral and/or competent. Second, I argue that groups which engage in violence against civilians may nonetheless garner public support if they provide effective governance or promote desirable ideologies. Third, I theorize that people interpret the causes of, consequences of, and responsibility for the violence differently when it is committed by their preferred armed group. I focus on Colombia as a case study, and I rely on original survey experiments, analysis of pre-existing public opinion data, and interviews with civil society leaders.

At Duke, I am a member of Devlab@Duke and the Latin American Working Group. I can be contacted at