Seven Questions With Professor Matthew Incantalupo

Matthew Incantalupo

American Political Science Expert Will Join Undergraduate Faculty in the Fall

This fall, Matthew Incantalupo will join Yeshiva University’s political science department as assistant professor of political science. The native New Yorker currently serves as a visiting assistant professor of political science at Haverford College, where he has also taught in the economics department. With his dissertation at Princeton University focused on politics and social policy, Incantalupo is broadly interested in American politics, political behavior, inequality and experiments. His work has been published in the American Journal of Political Science

YUNews sat down with Incantalupo to discuss what drew him to political science, the classes he’ll be teaching in the fall and the most intriguing conversations happening in the current American political science climate. 

What does your research focus on, and what drew you to that topic?

I study political behavior, the ways in which everyday citizens interact with politics. I’m fascinated with human behavior and how we think about or talk about politics. More specifically, I examine how experiencing economic hardship, particularly job loss, impacts political behavior. I chose that topic specifically because I don’t think it gets nearly enough attention from political scientists. Job loss is a profound personal and economic setback, and we know very little about how it affects the way people look at politics, even though we know that citizens hold the government accountable for economic performance. Job loss is a big contributor to inequality, which is another key area of research for me. I have a bunch of other papers in progress too, but if students want to hear more about those they’ll just have to ask me in person this fall. 

What courses will you be teaching at YU? What kinds of questions will they explore? 

I’ll be teaching an introductory course in American politics in which we’ll learn how to analyze the American political system the way political scientists do, which is very carefully and outside of the day-to-day churn of the news. I’ll also be teaching a course on elections and political participation, in which we’ll talk about who participates and how people vote. I think that course will sync up very nicely with the 2018 midterm elections. Lastly, I’ll be teaching a course called “Power and Public Policy,” which is an examination of the feedback loops between political and economic outcomes. It’s my favorite course and is really popular here at Haverford (it was named a “cool class” by the student blog this semester). I’m teaching it in the core curriculum so I hope a lot of students at YU take it. It’s of interest to any student who cares about politics, economics, sociology and even psychology.

In the spring, I’ll teach another course on political behavior, a course on public policy, and I’m hoping to teach a brand new course on experiments that reaches across the social sciences and into business as well. Depending on what students want, I can see myself teaching courses on Congress, statistics and game theory down the road. 

What should students know about you?

Students should know that I’m one of the lucky people who truly loves my job. Teaching, working with students and introducing them to concepts in political science makes me happy. I’m extremely passionate about what I do and hope that it’s contagious. Students should also know that I proudly hail from Queens and have strong opinions about why Queens is the best place on Earth.  

What most excites you about teaching at YU?

When I came to YU for a job interview, I gave a research presentation, and the students who were in the audience asked me harder questions than I’ve received at any conference. They didn’t let me off the hook about anything! The students here are so bold and outspoken, and I can’t wait to start working with them on a regular basis. I’m also excited to help grow the political science department and make connections across the social science departments. My future colleagues seem amazing, and I’m excited for some stimulating conversations and maybe some potential collaboration. 

What is your favorite thing about the field of political science?

Political science permits me to use all of the tools and methods of scientific inquiry to study something that affects millions of people, and that millions of people care about. I’m happy that I do research on stuff that I could explain to anyone, even if it means sometimes having to discuss politics with strangers and hearing their (strong) opinions on current events. Also, I love thinking about surveys and could stare at survey data all day. Political science forces us to think so hard about big questions that affect our world, and I never feel like I’m wasting my time when I’m thinking about or talking about politics. Plus, studying politics is messy and usually requires us to be really clever to overcome problems and reach conclusions. 

What do you think has been the most interesting political science question or issue of our time?

This is a tough question! I’m most fascinated by how the United States has avoided a lot of the class politics that we observe in other wealthy democracies. Americans lack a strong sense of class consciousness; socialism has never been especially popular here, and yet we see strong social democratic parties in Europe, for example. There are lots of potential explanations for why this is the case (and we can explore them more in the fall), but rich and poor Americans don’t view themselves as being very far apart, even though the economic and social distance between them is in fact growing. 

Anything I didn’t ask that you think it would be important to mention? 

I’m just so excited to be joining the faculty at YU this fall. I hope my classes are filled to the brim with students who are curious about political science. We’re going to work hard, have very nerdy conversations about data and learn a lot about how Americans think about and engage in politics. 

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