Rev. Robert Dowd, C.S.C.


On Leave Spring 2019


Regular Faculty - Associate Professor


Director, Ford Program in Human Development Studies & Solidarity
Fellow, Kellogg Institute for International Studies
Fellow, Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies


Comparative Politics


PhD University of California, Los Angeles
MDiv Jesuit School of Theology, Berkeley

Research and Teaching Interests

Dowd specializes in African politics, with particular country expertise on Kenya, Uganda, and Nigeria. Most of his research has focused on religion, democracy and development, but he has also written on ethnic politics and the factors that make ethnic identity more or less politically salient.

Since 2008, Dowd has directed the Ford Program in Human Development Studies and Solidarity at the Kellogg Institute for International Studies

Current research projects include:

*Christianity, Islam, and Liberal Democracy in Sub-Saharan Africa: Based on fieldwork conducted in Nigeria, Uganda, and Senegal, this study assesses the impact of religious observance on political actions and attitudes among ordinary Muslims and Christians. It points to the importance of location and explains how the political effects of religious observance are conditioned by the extent to which a setting is religiously diverse. This project was supported by generous grants from the John Templeton Foundation, Notre Dame’s Kellogg Institute for International Studies, and Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.

*Religious Diversity and Peace: This project seeks to identify conditions under which Christian and Islamic religious communities are most effective at preventing or ending violent conflict between ethnic groups. Preliminary findings indicate that Christian and Islamic communities are most effective at peacebuilding and conflict resolution in the most religiously diverse settings. Religious communities that include only some members of an ethnic group in conflict are better at preventing and ending violence between that ethnic group and another than religious communities that include nearly all members of an ethnic group in conflict.

*Explaining Voter Turnout in Uganda 2011: In collaboration with Clark Gibson, Karen Ferree, and Danielle Jung [all of UC-San Diego], a field experiment was conducted to assess the effectiveness of messages intended to encourage Ugandans to vote in the February 2011 election. Preliminary findings indicate that some messages do have a more positive impact on the decisions of certain demographic groups than others. This project was supported with a grant from Notre Dame’s Kellogg Institute for International Studies and UC San Diego’s International Studies Program.

*Does Religion Matter? The Impact of Religious Networks on Health-Enhancing Behavior in Africa: This project is a randomized field experiment conducted in collaboration with Notre Dame Economist Molly Lipscomb. The questions this project addresses are (1) Are religious leaders more effective than local governmental leaders at getting local populations to purchase chlorine-based water purification tablets for use on household drinking water and (2) are religious leaders more or less likely than local governmental leaders to target those in most need with discount coupons that may be used to acquire chlorine-based water purification tablets. This project is supported by generous grants from the Tony Blair Faith Foundation and Notre Dame’s Kellogg Institute for International Studies.

*The Roman Catholic Charismatic Movement in Sub-Saharan Africa: Its Causes and Consequences: This project focuses on explaining the variation in the popularity of the Catholic Charismatic movement in sub-Saharan Africa and the impact of the movement on social, economic, political and religious attitudes and behaviors of those who belong. Research is being conducted in three countries: Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. In-depth interviews and a mass survey of Charismatic Catholics, non-Charismatic Catholics, and Pentecostals [who are not Catholics] are being conducted in each of the three countries. Among other things, this project is intended to assess whether the Catholic Charismatic Movement is decreasing or increasing political engagement, tolerance of different ethnic and religious groups, support for basic freedoms, and support for democratic institutions. This project is supported by a substantial grant from the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California.


Fr. Dowd is an Assistant Professor of Political Science and founding Director of the Ford Family Program in Human Development Studies and Solidarity. A graduate of Notre Dame, Dowd received his doctorate in political science from the University of California, Los Angeles. His research interests include African politics, ethnic politics, and the impact of religion on development outcomes and political institutions. He is working on a book manuscript titled, Christianity, Islam and Liberal Democracy: Lessons from sub-Saharan Africa. The Ford Family Program, founded by Dowd in 2008, is part of Notre Dame’s Kellogg Institute for International Studies. Its mission is to integrate teaching, research and grassroots community engagement in parts of the world where extreme poverty continues to be a major challenge. Through the Ford Program, Notre Dame forges strategic partnerships with institutions of higher education, non-governmental organizations, governmental organizations, and religious institutions. The first of these partnerships are in Uganda and Kenya.

Contact Information

Office: 2167 Jenkins Nanovic Halls
Phone: 574-631-4454
Fax: 574-631-4405

Mailing Address

Department of Political Science
2060 Jenkins Nanovic Halls
Notre Dame, IN 46556


Dowd CV