Len Schoppa

Professor of Politics

My approach to empirical engagement is to focus on puzzles. What drives research forward for me, and for many other scholars, are questions raised by an empirical pattern that cannot be easily explained. The topic I study and write about is Japanese Politics, and a big puzzle in this field is the question of why Japanese voters repeatedly reelect the same political party. In the last 78 years, the Liberal Democratic Party has only been out of office for 4 years. How does the party do it? Why do the voters continue to support the party, even after decades of slow economic growth? My class on "Where Have All the Babies Gone?" is motivated by another pattern in Japan: couples are having so few babies the population is on track to shrink by one-third by 2100. Why aren't Japanese having more babies? It turns out this is a broader phenomenon, with similar trends in many more places, which makes it even more puzzling. I look forward to sharing puzzles like these and getting students so interested they want to go explore possible answers that I haven't even considered.