David Primo

David Primo

  • Ani and Mark Gabrellian Professor
    Professor of Political Science and Business Administration
  • Associate Department Chair and Director of Graduate Studies

PhD, Stanford, 2002

Office Location
Harkness 318
Web Address
Office Hours
T 11am–1pm
or by appointment


Fields: American politics, campaign finance, corporate political strategy, corporate social responsibility, fiscal policy, and political bargaining

Primo is the author or coauthor of four books. His most recent book, Campaign Finance and American Democracy: What the Public Really Thinks and Why It Matters, co-authored with Jeff Milyo (University of Chicago Press, 2020), challenges the conventional wisdom that stricter limits on money in politics will improve American democracy. His first book, The Plane Truth: Airline Crashes, the Media, and Transportation Policy (Brookings Institution Press, 2003), co-authored with Roger Cobb, examines governmental responses to plane crashes. His second book, Rules and Restraint: Government Spending and the Design of Institutions (University of Chicago Press, 2007), focuses on the design and enforcement of budget rules and received the 2008 Alan Rosenthal Prize awarded by the Legislative Studies Section of the American Political Science Association. His third book, A Model Discipline: Political Science and the Logic of Representations (Oxford University Press, 2012), co-authored with Kevin Clarke, studies the role of models, both theoretical and statistical, in social science research. Primo has published articles in over a dozen journals, including the American Journal of Political Science; Election Law Journal; Journal of Law, Economics, & Organization; Journal of Politics; and Strategic Management Journal, as well as in several edited volumes. Primo's work has been supported by several organizations, including the National Science Foundation. His op-eds have appeared in national newspapers, including the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, and he's been interviewed on radio and television stations including Bloomberg and National Public Radio. Primo has testified before Congress multiple times on the subject of constitutional budget rules and budget process reform, and his campaign finance research was cited in 2011 by Chief Justice John Roberts in a US Supreme Court decision regarding campaign finance. In 2014, Primo created the Politics and Markets Project, which fosters education, research, and debate about the appropriate relationship between business and government in the 21st century. Primo teaches undergraduate, MBA, and PhD courses in American politics, corporate political strategy, political disagreement, and innovation and global business. He is a recipient of the University of Rochester’s Goergen Award for Distinguished Achievement and Artistry in Undergraduate Education, the University of Rochester’s Edward Peck Curtis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, and the Undergraduate Professor of the Year Award given by the University of Rochester Students' Association. Primo served as the Political Science Department's Director of Graduate Studies from 2010-2017 and returned to the role in 2022.

Courses taught