Sanghoon Kim-Leffingwell

Sanghoon Kim-Leffingwell

PhD Candidate

Department of Political Science, University of Illinois

I am a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. My research interests focus on authoritarian nostalgia and related political behavior in post-authoritarian democracies, especially East Asian countries. My dissertation investigates why individual voters feel nostalgic for an authoritarian past and vote for political parties that are linked to the past. I explain the variation in authoritarian nostalgia with personality traits and external threat perception. I also show that authoritarian nostalgia is one of the key sources of social identity in maturing democracies, and people high in nostalgia are more likely to “vote for nostalgia”, support politicians and political parties evoking nostalgia.

My dissertation research is supported by various sources, including a Taiwan Fellowship from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Taiwan and a Doctoral Fellowship from the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange. My work is forthcoming at Political Communication.

Before joining the PhD program at Illinois, I received my BA in Political Science and Economics and an MA in Political Science from Korea University.


  • Authoritarian legacies
  • Comparative political behavior
  • Personality and political attitudes
  • Post-authoritarian democracies


  • PhD Candidate in Political Science

    University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

  • MA in Political Science, 2015

    Korea University

  • BA in Political Science; Economics, 2011

    Korea University

Dissertation Project

Voting for Nostalgia?: Authoritarian Legacies, Social Identity, and Political Behavior in Post-Authoritarian Democracies

More than three decades since the Third Wave of democratization, authoritarian nostalgia still drives individual political attitudes and related behavior. I investigate the underlying determinants of authoritarian nostalgia with a special focus on political psychology and further examine this nostalgia’s behavioral implications. I argue that the presence of authoritarian nostalgia can produce significant effects on social identity, partisan attachment, candidate preferences, and more.


Putting the Place Back in Understanding Local News Loss: Why Where the News is Lost (and how we measure it) Matters (Forthcoming)

The loss of local newspapers in the US is understood to be a challenge for a functioning democracy. Relying on a theoretical framework drawn from political geography, this article explores “news deserts” and related concerns about news media saturation in large cities, using newspaper employment and a typology of 15 US county-types to better understand shifts in the US’ newspaper industry.


Authoritarian nostalgia

Voting for Nostalgia?: Authoritarian Nostalgia, Social Identity, and Political Behavior (Under review)

Legacies of an authoritarian past still leave enduring effects on voters’ political attitudes and behavior. I argue that authoritarian nostalgia is a defining factor in voter attitudes and related behavior in post-authoritarian democracies. Voters who share core values from the authoritarian past construct heightened social identity toward the past, which breeds strong attachment to authoritarian legacy parties.

Alternative Ideological Legacies of Authoritarianism: Pro-dictator Bias in Post-developmental States (R&R)

How does an authoritarian past shape voters’ left-right orientation? Recent studies investigated “anti-dictator bias” in political ideology that citizens of a former right-wing (left-wing) dictatorship may display a leftist (rightist) bias in their ideological self-identification. I argue “pro-dictator bias” that citizens may hold ideological positions corresponding to those of the dictator based on three reasons: first, successors of a former dictator may still dominate politics in some countries with inherited political resources from the past; second, not all former dictators are evaluated negatively and even attract positive evaluation based on their performance, evoking authoritarian nostalgia; and third, the political environment that shaped former dictators’ ideological position may persist under the new regime, prolonging the ideology’s relevance.

Authoritarian Legacies and Partisan Bias in Performance-based Voting (Under Review)

What explains the lack of electoral consequences for corrupt politicians? Building on studies of motivated reasoning and asymmetric partisan bias, this paper highlights the importance of partisan differences in how voters interpret corruption charges and make voting decisions. I contend that in post-authoritarian democracies, supporters of authoritarian legacy parties (ALPs) are less likely to punish corrupt copartisan incumbents compared to supporters of other parties faced with equally corrupt copartisan incumbents.


Political Communication

What the US Newspaper Crisis Means for Public Accountability

This paper examines the connection between declines in local journalism in the US and the possibility of declines in federal prosecutions for public corruption, defined by the US Department of Justice as crimes involving the abuse of public trust by government by federal, state, and local public officials. Journalism has long been presumed to serve as a check on the powerful, shedding light on wrongdoing; however, given the significant declines in local newspaper journalism in the US, extant theory suggests that wrongdoing such as public corruption would be less visible to the public–and in turn, make it more difficult for these abuses to come to light so they can be prosecuted by the US government.


I received the A. Belden Fields Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching as a Teaching Assisant in 2019. Teaching evaluations are available upon request.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


  • PS230 Intro to Political Research (Spring 2021)
  • PS241 Comparative Politics in Developing Nations (Online, Spring 2020)
  • GLBL296 Global Politics of Intellectual Property Protection (Spring 2019)
  • PS100 Intro to Political Science (Online, Spring 2019)

Teaching Assistant

  • PS231 Strategic Models (Fall 2020, Fall 2021)
  • PS241 Comparative Politics in Developing Nations (Spring 2018, Fall 2018)
  • PS220 Intro to Public Policy (Fall 2017)
  • PS322 Law and Public Policy (Spring 2017)
  • PS321 Principles of Public Policy (Fall 2016)

ICPSR, University of Michigan

Teaching Assistant

  • Causal Inference for the Social Sciences (Summer 2021)