This collection on American democracy challenges and complements blog posts and opinion pieces that are typical staples of the 24/7 news cycle in the lead up to US elections. You'll find reports about election and campaign administration, voting access and participation, government performance and perceptions, the role of the media in civil society, and more.

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"VOTE!" by Paul Sableman licensed under CC BY 2.0

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Featured

Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century

June 12, 2020

"Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century" is the work of the US national and bipartisan Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship, convened by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. It presents 31 recommendations - across political institutions, political culture, and civil society - which are the product of two years of work and nearly 50 listening sessions with Americans around the country, which sought to understand how American citizens could obtain the values, knowledge, and skills to become better citizens. Collectively, the recommendations lay the foundation for an essential reinvention of the American democracy supported by the increasement of citizens' capacity to engage in their communities.

Government
Featured

How States Are Expanding Broadband Access

February 1, 2020

This report from the Pew Charitable Trusts highlights practices for state programs aimed at expanding broadband access to un- and underserved areas.Based on interviews with more than three hundred representatives of state broadband programs, Internet service providers, local governments, and broadband coalitions, the report identified five promising and mutually reinforcing practices: stakeholder outreach and engagement at both the state and local levels; a policy framework with well-defined goals that connects broadband to other policy priorities; planning and capacity building in support of broadband infrastructure projects; funding and operations through grant programs, with an emphasis on accountability and data collection; and program evaluation and evolution to ensure that lessons learned inform the next iteration of goals and activities. The study explores how nine states — California, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin — have adapted and implemented different combinations of those practices to close gaps in broadband access.

Media
Featured

Voting Rights Under Fire: Philanthropy’s Role in Protecting and Strengthening American Democracy

November 1, 2019

There is a new urgency today for American philanthropies to protect the right to vote for all eligible citizens. The philanthropic community has worked alongside the government to protect these rights for decades, but since a 2013 Supreme Court ruling eliminated key parts of the Voting Rights Act, there has been a dramatic increase across the country in barriers to voting. These new barriers often disproportionately affect low-income voters, rural voters, communities of color, young people, and people with disabilities.American philanthropies now have an opportunity to protect and strengthen U.S. democracy by providing badly needed investments in the country's voting infrastructure, paying attention to these issues beyond election time, and joining with others to support litigation against illegal voting barriers.

Campaigns and Elections
Featured

Strengthening Democracy: What Do Americans Think?

August 23, 2019

Nearly every day, Americans are confronted with evidence that our politics are broken and our democracy is not working as it should. So what do Americans think we should do to improve our politics and renew our democracy? This is the question that Public Agenda, in partnership with the Kettering Foundation, is exploring in the Yankelovich Democracy Monitor.This report summarizes findings from the first Yankelovich Democracy Monitor, a nationally representative survey of 1,000 American adults 18 and older. The survey was fielded from September 14 through October 15, 2018, by telephone, including cell phones, and online. Respondents completed the survey in English. Before developing the survey instrument, Public Agenda conducted three demographically diverse focus groups with adults 18 and older in July 2018 in Hicksville, New York; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; and Earth City, Missouri. In total, 31 adults participated in these focus groups.

Government
Featured

Engaging New Voters: If Nonprofits Don’t, Who Will?

May 30, 2019

One of the most compelling questions asked after every election year is "what will it take to get young voters to head to the polls?" Every year is an important year for voters. Which means every year the important question to ask is, how do we ensure the most eligible citizens turn out to vote?Nonprofit VOTE's updated "Engaging New Voters" report tackles that question and proposes a simple but hard-fought answer: "contact." The report looks at 64 nonprofits across six states who reached out into the communities they serve via nonpartisan voter engagement activities and found amazing results:Voters contacted by nonprofits are TWICE as likely to be nonwhite, TWICE as likely to be under 25 and TWICE as likely to have $30,000 in household income. These voters were also MORE likely to vote – 11 percentage points more likely. Asian, Latino and Black voters contacted by nonprofits show up 13-16 percentage points higher than those who weren't; those under 25 turned out 20 percentage points higher.

Campaigns and Elections

What We Know about Congressional Primaries and Congressional Primary Reform

July 1, 2021

This report offers an analytical overview of recent scholarship on the effects of the primary election on politics and the effects of different primary rules on voters, candidates, and policy moderation. Though many studies have been conducted in recent years, this is the first time that they have been systematically brought together with the express purpose of drawing comprehensive lessons.

Freedom in the World 2021: Democracy under Siege

March 1, 2021

Freedom in the World 2021 evaluates the state of freedom in 195 countries and 15 territories during calendar year 2020. Each country and territory is assigned between 0 and 4 points on a series of 25 indicators, for an aggregate score of up to 100. The indicators are grouped into the categories of political rights (0–40) and civil liberties (0–60), whose totals are weighted equally to determine whether the country or territory has an overall status of Free, Partly Free, or Not Free.The methodology, which is derived from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is applied to all countries and territories, irrespective of geographic location, ethnic or religious composition, or level of economic development. Freedom in the World assesses the real-world rights and freedoms enjoyed by individuals, rather than governments or government performance per se. Political rights and civil liberties can be affected by both state and nonstate actors, including insurgents and other armed groups.

Americans See Skepticism of News Media as Healthy, Say Public Trust in Institutions Can Improve

August 31, 2020

In a year filled with major news stories – from impeachment to a contentious election, from a global pandemic to nationwide protests over racial injustice – Americans continue to have a complicated relationship with the news media. While large swaths of the public often express negative views toward journalists and news organizations, a major Pew Research Center analysis – culminating a yearlong study on Americans' views of the news media – also finds areas where U.S. adults feel more affinity toward the media and express open-mindedness about the possibility that their trust in the industry could improve.

Media

Indicators of News Media Trust

August 6, 2020

The news media, like many other major U.S. institutions, has suffered from a decline in public confidence in recent years. A key question for the future of the news media, as well as for U.S. democracy, is whether that trust is lost for good. In this report, part of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation's Trust, Media and Democracy initiative, Gallup asked a representative sample of U.S. adults to discuss key factors that make them trust, or not trust, news media organizations.

American Views 2020: Trust, Media and Democracy

August 1, 2020

This report is based on data collected between Nov. 8, 2019, and Feb. 16, 2020, just before the novel coronavirus became a global pandemic and the burgeoning movement for racial justice swept the nation. The low levels of public trust in the nation's polarized media environment have left open the possibility for dangerous false narratives to take root in all segments of society during these emergent crises. At a time when factual, trustworthy information is especially critical to public health and the future of our democracy, the striking trends documented in these pages are cause for concern. American Views offers new insights into how the public is responding to these challenges in their own media consumption and their thoughts about how to address them.

The 2018 Voting Experience

July 9, 2020

This report documents the results of a nationwide study that the Bipartisan Policy Center and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology conducted in 3,119 individual polling places across the country to measure wait times at the polls during the 2018 midterms. It provides the type of fine-grained analysis of voters' reality as they waited to cast ballots that survey data cannot replicate.

Reconstructing American News: Investing In The Transformation Of Journalistic Processes And Power Relations To Strengthen Civil Society

July 1, 2020

At the time of this writing, early June 2020, COVID-19 cases are rising or holding steady in a majority of states, disproportionately killing Native Americans, Blacks, Latinos, and people with disabilities. The nation is roiled by civil unrest following the brutal killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other deaths at the hands of law enforcement officers. In many ways, we have spiraled back to the trauma of the late '60s, with a pandemic added to the mix. Newsrooms across the nation are also having fierce internal debates about what constitutes good coverage and staffing. The degree to which they are prepared to have these conversations often relies on the level of transparency and openness to innovation, in a way that goes far beyond placing content on the tech platform du jour.