As senior vice president of democracy, Laura Thornton leads teams whose programs defend and promote democracy. She oversees the Alliance for Securing Democracy (ASD), through which GMF tracks, analyzes, and builds strategies to thwart malign internal and external influence operations that target democracies worldwide. Thornton guides GMF’s global democracy initiatives to build communities of practices, share lessons, and forge transnational alliances. She participates in numerous democracy networks and working groups as a leader and expert.
Thornton also oversees GMF’s transatlantic trusts, which support civil society organizations and actors in Central and Eastern Europe, the Western Balkans, the Black Sea and Eurasia regions, Belarus, and Ukraine that bolster democratic resilience through civic education, media literacy, public awareness campaigns, and media and watchdog activities.
Prior to joining GMF, Thornton was director of global programs at International IDEA, a Stockholm-based intergovernmental think-and-do tank that advances democracy. She led multiple teams across Europe focused on constitution-building, parliamentary processes, elections, gender and inclusion, political parties, and democracy assessment and analysis. She managed the development of global comparative knowledge and applied research products aimed at supporting and advancing democracy worldwide, including the Global State of Democracy report and the Global Monitor on COVID-19’s impact on human rights and democracy.
Thornton served for more than 20 years in leadership positions at the National Democratic Institute (NDI), working throughout Asia and the former Soviet Union. She has written extensively about political party development, political finance and corruption, elections, and disinformation, and has led multiple election observation missions worldwide. At NDI, Thornton designed public opinion research efforts, including national polls, focus groups, and experimental research designs to explore disinformation, security, geopolitics, democracy and human rights, and political developments. She is the co-author of Political Parties in Asia: Promoting Reform and Combating Corruption in Eight Countries (NDI, 2003). Thornton has a master’s degree from Princeton University and a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University.