Our mission is to advance civil dialogue that transcends partisan divisions and explores solutions to our most pressing national and global challenges.

Our Challenge

Today’s political divide is wider than at any time since the Civil War. News is fake, facts are discounted and rancor is at historic levels. Now, more than ever, we need innovative pathways to restore dispassionate analysis to the political arena and renew the compromise essential to our democracy. The Center for the Political Future combines rigorous intellectual inquiry, teaching and practical politics to advance a new model for political discourse that opens those pathways.


  • Develop a deep understanding of pressing national and global issues and how policy is made at the national and global levels.
  • Study and understand the psychological and intellectual scaffold on which conservatives and liberals operate in order to develop more inclusive frameworks for debate and decision making.
  • Model and advance civil dialogue demonstrating that individuals with different political perspectives can speak respectfully with each other and find ways to work together.
  • Prepare students to become effective citizens by teaching and practicing the skills of practical political leadership.


CPF Director Bob Shrum (left) and Co-Director Mike Murphy (right) sitting side by side.
CPF Director Bob Shrum (left) and Co-Director Mike Murphy (right) sitting side by side.

The Center is led by two of the nation’s most experienced and respected political experts, Robert Shrum and Michael Murphy.

Shrum is the Carmen H. and Louis Warschaw Chair in Practical Politics at USC Dornsife and has been director of the Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics, which is a vital part of the Center. He has a storied career as an author and campaign adviser to Democratic candidates. His numerous clients included Edward Kennedy, Joe Biden, John Glenn and Barbara Mikulski in their Senate campaigns, and John Kerry and Al Gore in their presidential races. Overseas his clients included Ehud Barak in his campaign for Prime Minister of Israel, the British Labour Party and Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister of Ireland and the President of Colombia.

Murphy is one of the Republican Party’s most successful political consultants. Murphy has led more than 20 statewide campaigns to victory, including gubernatorial races for Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Christine Todd Whitman, John Engler, and Tommy Thompson as well as dozens of Senatorial, United States House and other races. He’s worked on six Republican presidential campaigns and is widely known for his work in the 2000 GOP primaries as a senior strategist for Senator John McCain. He has advised leaders in Canada, Panama, El Salvador, Europe and in the former Soviet Union. He is a widely known political pundit, appearing frequently on NBC, CNN, and NPR.

The Center’s Executive Director is Kamy Akhavan, former CEO of ProCon.org, the nation’s leading source of nonpartisan research on controversial issues. Kamy is an expert on political polarization, civics education, and conflict resolution. He serves on the boards of Listen First Project, Bridging Movement Alignment Council, Common Ally, The Psychology of Technology Institute, and The Society Library.

For media inquiries for Bob, Mike, or Kamy, please email cpf@usc.edu.

Community and Global Engagement

Part of our mission of bringing the academy to the public square includes bringing political operatives and professors together to discuss policies and legislation. We partner with various organizations on and off campus to promote civil discourse with a variety of perspectives and political affiliation.

By hosting experts from different points on the ideological spectrum, conferences and workshops test productive means of discourse and draw attention to the solutions across political fault lines. We aim to:

  • Understand and contextualize causes of the political divide
  • Work toward a common fact base
  • Renew civil discourse to find common ground
  • Explore the domestic and global implications of different policy approaches


The Center hosts a changing and outstanding cohort of political and policy leaders selected from across the nation and world on the basis of a notable record of serving in public office or working in the arena of practical politics. Fellows conduct study groups, teach courses, and interact with faculty and students.

Endowed Chairs

The Center draws outstanding new tenure-track faculty to USC Dornsife. They add scholarly perspective on politics and a wide range of policy issues, engage with political and government leaders, and educate undergraduate and graduate students.

Civil Discourse in Civil Society

The Center hosts a series of workshops in the surrounding community. Center faculty and fellows oversee political discussions with voters across the span of political viewpoints to promote civil discourse and explore techniques for breaking down political divides.

Behind-the-Scenes Policy Workshops

Located 3,000 miles from Washington, D.C., the Center provides neutral ground for political discourse. Elected officials and their staffs are invited to the Center for off-the-record policy workshops with top experts from the fields of science, economics, political science, international relations and other relevant disciplines. Led by outstanding facilitators, the workshops encourage leaders of different viewpoints to seek agreement and develop rules of the road for disagreement. The Center engages the political leadership of Washington, D.C., and strives aggressively to introduce new solutions and ideas to the national political dialogue.

Student Engagement

CPF Assistant Director Nicole Pompilio talking to USC students at the CPF Fall 2022 Open House.
CPF Assistant Director Nicole Pompilio talking to USC students at the CPF Fall 2022 Open House.

Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics

Integral to the Center, the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics continues to serve students by giving them the opportunity to be politically active and civically engaged through internships, scholarships and professional development. The institute facilitates student internships in the offices of elected officials, non-profit organizations, public affairs professionals, and more. At the institute, USC Dornsife students also conduct research into major public policy challenges at the local, state, and national levels.

Building Future Leaders

The Center supports an educational mission rooted in the liberal arts that encourages global citizenship, public service and analytical thinking. In addition to opportunities to engage with our renowned faculty and visiting fellows, access to new technology and pedagogical resources help students think about public life and how to shape a future that improves it.

The Center’s civic engagement extends beyond the campus through initiatives that educate and empower high school students, young adults and marginalized communities to take part in the political process.

Research and Polling

CPF polling graph showing an election forecast for the 2016 presidential election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
CPF polling graph showing an election forecast for the 2016 presidential election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Technology and Politics

A standing project studying the intersection of disruptive new technologies and politics will examine how digital disruption could be used to strengthen rather than undermine political discourse in the 21st century.

The USC Dornsife/LA Times Poll

The USC Dornsife/LA Times poll has earned national recognition for its innovative methodology. Almost alone in 2016, it pointed to the possibility of President Trump’s victory. In partnership with the USC Dornsife Center for Social and Economic Research, the Center for the Political Future conducts an ongoing national survey of political races and public attitudes, moving from the 2018 midterm election to the 2020 presidential contest. In addition, a California poll now uses the same methodology to track trends on issues and candidates in America’s largest state.

Resources and Advantages

With academic departments and programs spanning the humanities and natural and social sciences, and with close connections to other schools at the university, USC Dornsife has unparalleled resources that can partner with the Center to help carry out its mission. The following is a sample of them.

  • School of International Relations
  • Department of Political Science
  • Department of Economics
  • Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration
  • Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies
  • Shoah Foundation
  • Program for Environmental and Regional Equity
  • Pacific Rim Regional Centers (Korea, China, Japan)
  • Center for Economic and Social Research
  • Brain and Creativity Institute

Support the Center for the Political Future

With your help, the Center for the Political Future can continue to empower future civic leaders with practical political skills and the training to bridge divides through civil discourse and fact-based compromise. Join this effort to support students, support USC, and support democracy. Please make a gift today.

Our new Center Leadership Circle program gives our most generous donors additional perks and access to Center leadership. For more information on this front row seat to national politics, please visit our Center Leadership Circles page.

Read the USC Dornsife Center for the Political Future brochure here.