Mert Bayar

South Library Allen · ISchool 71 Seattle, WA 98195 · mertcanby@gmail.com

I am currently a Post-Doctoral Scholar at the University of Washington at the Center for an Informed Public. I received my Ph.D. at Binghamton University Political Science Department in 2023. I study public opinion and democracy, focusing on conspiracy theories and evolving attitudes on democracy and autocracy. My research sits in an interdisciplinary space between political psychology and comparative political behavior with an emphasis on the politics of conspiracy theories and the competing understandings of democratic citizenship. My dissertation: “The Politics of Good and Evil: Conspiracy Theories’ Role in Democratic Erosion: Cases of The United States and Turkey” is among the first scholarly attempts to shed light on the impacts of partisan conspiracy theories on democracies.


Research

My research focuses on the effects of conspiracy theories, misinformation, and disinformation on citizens' understanding of democracy, democratic participation, and political contestation.

Regardless of how advanced economies are or how strong institutions may be, public opinion in many democracies experience deep divisions over election frauds and struggle to agree on fundamental scientific facts. What factors lead to this zeitgeist of democratic erosion, the gradual decline of democratic norms and principles, and what is the role of conspiracy theories in this decline even among some of the oldest democracies in the world?

My research centers on understanding this gradual decline with an emphasis on the politics of conspiracy theories and their implications for democratic citizenship and democratic contestation. Conspiracy theories are only a factor among many that contribute to the recent wave of democratic erosion yet their impact on our democratic societies and institutions is yet to be understood.

In my current work, including my Ph.D. dissertation, I explore the conditions in which conspiracy theories become major political instruments in our democratic societies and institutions. In most comparative politics literature, institutional and systemic variables are the main factors that are expected to explain similarities and differences in political outcomes. However, in the recent cases of the democratic erosion in the United States of America and Turkey, the cases I study in my dissertation work, the main cause is not likely to be institutional or systemic since no common political institution has existed in both countries that might lead to democratic erosion. The United States is an advanced democracy with a two-party, electorally majoritarian, bicameral, and federal system whereas Turkey has been a struggling parliamentary democracy with a multi-party, electorally proportional, unicameral, and unitary system. However, they were both exposed to a radical right-wing incumbent whose main political communication tool is the endorsement of conspiracy theories and fake news. Hence, these cases approximate a most different system design (MDSD) where we can discover the isolated effect of conspiracy theories on democratic societies.


Teaching

Philosophy and Experience

I am deeply committed to teaching; I believe it’s particularly important to teach skills such as critical thinking and logical inference in a time when conspiracy theories run rampant through political structures around the world.

My primary teaching objectives are facilitating the development of critical analysis skills while supporting my students to unleash their full potential. These skills lie at the core of any liberal arts and social science-based education. Included is the ability to interpret primary and secondary sources; realize the biases and agendas of both author and reader; evaluate the validity of arguments based on sources, methodology, and theoretical approach; and formulate and express clearly and concisely well-informed ideas arguments in oral and written forms. It is my conviction that these skills facilitate the development of well-rounded graduates who will be able to evaluate the deluge of information that is increasingly available to them through un-verified sources, live and engage responsibly in civil society, and will be successful in their chosen professions.

When designing courses, I set three basic objectives:

  • Students discover the logic of the scientific endeavor of falsification.
  • Students learn to apply political theories to real-life social science problems and evaluate the relative merits of these theories in explaining outcomes.
  • Students gain analytical skills and differentiate valid/invalid arguments and logical fallacies that they can draw on in their academic work and professional lives.

As the instructor of record at Binghamton University, I have designed and taught six college-level classes and two life-long learning classes. From “Introduction to Comparative Politics” to “Conspiracy Theories and Democratic Erosion,” I have taught courses across the catalog:

  • Binghamton University, Political Science Department
    • PLSC 485W-01 The Politics of Conspiracy Theories and Democratic Erosion | Fall 2022
    • PLSC 113-90 Introduction to Comparative Politics | Fall 2022
    • PLSC 389C Politics of Good and Evil | Summer 2022
    • PLSC 485W-01 The Politics of Conspiracy Theories and Democratic Erosion | Spring 2022
    • PLSC 113-90 Introduction to Comparative Politics | Fall 2021
    • PLSC 389A Conspiracy Theories and Democracy | Summer 2020

  • Binghamton University, Lyceum Center for Life-Long Learning
    • From Empire to Republic: The Journey of Modern Turkey | Fall 2022
    • Conspiracy Theories and The Politics of Misinformation | Spring 2022

  • Course Prepared
    • Contemporary Politics in the Middle East | Spring 2023
    • Introduction to Political Behavior | Spring 2023

Profesional Employment

Postdoctoral Scholar

University of Washington, Center for an Informed Public
Fall 2023 - Present

Adjunct lecturer

Binghamton University Political Science Department
Fall 2022 - Spring 2023

Instructor

Democratic Erosion Multi-University Consortium
Spring 2022 - Spring 2023

Regional Curator of the Middle East and North Africa

Binghamton University’s Government Responses to COVID-19 Lab
Spring 2021 - Fall 2023

Graduate Assistant

Binghamton University Political Science Department
Fall 2017 - Spring 2022

Education

Binghamton University (New York, USA)

Doctor of Philosophy in Political Science
2023

Binghamton University (New York, USA)

Master of Science in Political Science
2019

Bogazici University (Istanbul, Turkey)

Bachelor of Arts in Political Science & International Relations
2017

Bogazici University (Istanbul, Turkey)

Bachelor of Arts in History
2017

McGill University (Quebec, Canada)

International Exchange Program
2015

Awards & Grants

  • Harpur College Faculty Research Grant with Prof. Ekrem Karakoc ($5000) | 2021-2022
  • Best Graduate Student Paper, MPSA 2022 Annual Meeting (Nominated) | 2021-2022
  • 3 Minute Thesis Competition, Third Place ($300) | 2021-2022
  • Bucali Manav Huseyin Sekercisoy Award ($500) | 2021-2022
  • Lyceum Center Graduate Student Fellowship for Educational Leadership ($1000) | 2021-2022
  • Binghamton University Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching ($500) | 2021-2022