Back to Collections

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.

More ways to engage:
- Add your organization's content to this collection.
- Easily share this collection on your website or app.

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

Search this collection

Clear all

12 results found

reorder grid_view
Featured

Understanding the Partisan Divide: How Demographics and Policy Views Shape Party Coalitions

February 6, 2023

To win congressional majorities, Democratic and Republican parties must stitch together coalitions that are broad enough to accommodate their stronghold districts and swing districts, but distinct enough to differentiate themselves from each other. How each party builds these coalitions depends, in part, on the demographic characteristics and policy views of voters in districts where they garner most support and how these overlap with voters in competitive districts.In this report, we show how Democratic and Republican districts differ from each other and where they overlap with competitive districts. Democratic districts tend to be more affluent and more diverse than Republican districts, which are mostly poorer and predominantly white. Competitive districts comprise roughly equal shares of districts that are more and less affluent than the district average, but they tend to be whiter than the average district. The winner-take-all electoral system accentuates these differences and reduces the diverse constellation of districts to a binary. This results in an inadequate representation of voters in districts that are far from the median Democratic or Republican district.

The Case for Multiparty Presidentialism in the United States

December 15, 2023

For many Americans, anything besides our two-party electoral system is hard to imagine. Multiple parties and proportional representation, the main alternative, might seem more fitting for a parliamentary system than our presidential one. But the truth is, how a country elects its legislature and how it selects its executive are two separate decisions. Multiparty presidentialism—the system the United States would have if it adopted proportional representation—is common around the world.In a sweeping new review of electoral system combinations published by New America and Protect Democracy, Scott Mainwaring, a leading scholar of presidential systems, and Lee Drutman, a prominent expert on proportional representation, conclude that multiparty presidentialism is the best fit for the United States. In particular, they find that it would:Functionally eliminate gerrymandering, increasing the competitiveness of elections and decreasing electoral incentives to entertain extremism to defeat primary challengers;Allow for parties and governing institutions to more flexibly respond to ongoing challenges; andAttenuate hyperpartisan polarization by empowering compromise-oriented officials.Democracy in the United States is an outlier in many ways—most democracies around the world use some form of proportional representation, and rarely is presidential democracy paired with a two-party system. This unique combination is exacerbating factionalism and political brinkmanship, pushing our democracy beyond inefficiency and towards autocracy. 

More Parties, Better Parties: The Case for Pro-Parties Democracy Reform

July 3, 2023

Political parties are the central institutions of modern representative democracy. They must also be at the center of efforts to reform American democracy. To redirect and realign the downward trajectory of our politics, we must focus on political parties. We need them to do better. And in order to create better parties, we need more parties.This paper makes the case for pro-parties reform both generally, and then for two specific reforms that would center parties: fusion voting and proportional representation. Fusion voting allows for multiple parties to endorse the same candidate, encouraging new party formation. Proportional representation ends the single-member district, making it possible for multiple parties to win seats in larger, multi-member districts, in proportion to their popular support. The goal of these reforms—fusion in the short and medium term and proportional representation in the long term—is to move us toward a more representative, effective, and resilient democracy for the twenty-first century.

Government

Undecided Voters: Who They Are, What They Want, and How They Decide Our Politics

November 7, 2022

Every election cycle, campaigns try to persuade undecided voters to support their side. Whether undecided voters are receptive to campaigns and how they end up voting—if they turn out at all—often proves pivotal in deciding elections. But who are these undecided voters and what policies do they want? Using a rich public opinion dataset, we analyze the demographics and policy preferences of undecided voters and how they differ from partisan voters. Undecided voters tend to be younger, have lower levels of educational attainment, and lower household incomes compared to Democratic and Republican voters. Undecided voters are also less interested in politics and largely equivocal about the Democratic and Republican parties. In terms of policy, undecided voters are not unified by shared positions towards social and economic issues. Instead, they have many different combinations of policy preferences, making it challenging to determine what they want from politics. Reforms like fusion balloting or proportional representation could allow for the emergence of new parties that could find ways to engage and provide better representation for these voters.

The Case for Fusion Voting and a Multiparty Democracy in America: How to Start Breaking the Two-Party Doom Loop

September 29, 2022

American democracy is stuck in a hyper-partisan "doom loop" of escalating division and polarization. Fusion balloting is an extremely promising way to break this doom loop because it gives voters the ability to clearly signal: "stop the hyper-partisan fighting and work together." Without the ability to vote for a moderate party, voters can only vote for the Democrat or the Republican, but without any direction. Because of the single-member district system with plurality voting, a moderate party is unlikely to emerge on its own. Only fusion balloting can give that party an opportunity to represent the growing number of homeless voters in the political middle, who can then leverage their power in key elections.

Campaigns and Elections

What We Know About Redistricting and Redistricting Reform

September 19, 2022

This report offers a systematic analysis of redistricting and redistricting commissions, and finds that truly independent redistricting commissions are superior to partisan legislatures across any number of measures. However, there are significant limits to "fair" maps, even with independent commissions. While gerrymandering is undoubtedly a major concern, many of the problems attributed to gerrymandering are actually problems with districting, and more specifically with the use of the single-member district. Therefore, while independent redistricting commissions do perform better than partisan state legislatures, the improvements are typically more marginal than the conventional wisdom would suggest. They fall short of ideal conditions—especially when it comes to the share of districts that are competitive in a general election.

Campaigns and Elections; Government

How Democracies Revive

April 28, 2022

In 2022, it is no longer difficult to envision the downfall of American democracy. To a growing number of commentators and analysts, this demise almost feels inevitable. If "January 6 was practice" for an authoritarian takeover (as the headline of a December Atlantic article warned us), next time could be for real.This essay makes the case for resisting the prevailing pessimism. While the threats are obviously real, the prevailing zeitgeist of a downward spiral should, counter-intuitively, be seen as a sign for optimism. Before we can rebuild our democracy, we first have to acknowledge that it is, in fact, falling apart. And we are indeed starting to realize this―hence the pervasive panic, that repeated prerequisite for reform. This is why I am ultimately optimistic. And why you should be, too.In this essay, I will seek out some lessons from history that should inform our optimism. Though much is unique about our current impasse, much is also familiar. All democracies have ups and downs. American democracy has had ups and downs. We are in a "down." And some "downs" last a long time. But they never last forever. Thus, the first lesson of history―"the inevitability of course change"―is perhaps the most obvious. Each generation is a reaction to the previous generation.But if the first lesson of history seems obvious, we keep forgetting it. Thus, the second lesson is "the illusion of course continuation." That is, just as course change is inevitable, so is it almost equally inevitable that we forget this, and delude ourselves into thinking we have somehow escaped the broader patterns of history.Time and again, we mistakenly predict that we have reached some new stage that will somehow last for centuries (e.g., we are at the "End of x" or "This time is really different" or Yale economist Irving Fisher's September 1929 conclusion that "stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau"). Time and again, we mistakenly make straight-line projections about markets or demographics or politics, assuming that whatever trends have led us to this moment, they will continue indefinitely. But they never do.

Government

Evaluating the Effects of Ranked-Choice Voting

March 30, 2022

As ranked-choice voting (RCV) continues to spread across America, activists, voters, election officials, and state lawmakers want to know more about the effects of adopting RCV and other voting systems on participation, processes, partisanship, policy, and power. Recognizing the need for more—and more publicly accessible—research on electoral reform, New America's Political Reform program formed the Electoral Reform Research Group (ERRG) with partners at the American Enterprise Institute, the Unite America Institute, and Stanford University's Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law.This collection of ERRG research includes 15 original studies, presented here as a series of briefs. The full papers are available to download for free on the Social Science Research Network website.

Campaigns and Elections

The Case for Enlarging the House of Representatives

December 9, 2021

This report makes the case for expanding the House of Representatives to bring the American people a little closer to their government, and their government closer to them. The Case for Enlarging the House of Representatives is an independent byproduct of Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century, the final report of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences' Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship. The Commission represents a cross-partisan cohort of leaders from academia, civil society, philanthropy, and the policy sphere who reached unanimous agreement on thirty-one recommendations to improve American democracy. The report takes as a premise that political institutions, civic culture, and civil society reinforce one another. A nation may have impeccably designed bodies of government, but it also needs an engaged citizenry to ensure these institutions function as intended. As a result, Our Common Purpose argues that reforming only one of these areas is insufficient. Progress must be made across all three. To build a better democracy, the United States needs better-functioning institutions as well as a healthier political culture and a more resilient civil society.

Government

What We Know About Ranked-Choice Voting

November 10, 2021

As ranked-choice voting (RCV) gains momentum in American politics, a new body of research has emerged to examine the reform's effects on voters, candidates, campaigns, and policy. This report offers a systematic overview of the literature on RCV in the United States. Broadly, the research shows that RCV is an improvement over the more traditional single-vote plurality voting system, with clear benefits in some areas—especially campaign quality and descriptive representation—and more marginal or no apparent benefits in other areas. The research should also allay fears that RCV is too confusing or discriminatory: voters understand RCV, and learn to like it, too, particularly with experience.However, many promised benefits of RCV appear to be more modest than many had initially hoped and/or difficult to quantify based on limited usage thus far in the United States. It is possible that these benefits will take time to become apparent as candidates and voters learn and attitudes change. It is also possible that the adoption of RCV nationwide would be more transformative than city-by-city and even state-by-state adoption. But given the broader structural forces at play in our deteriorating national politics, stronger medicine may be needed.

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.

Theft Perception: Examining the Views of Americans Who Believe the 2020 Election was Stolen

June 3, 2021

This report utilizes survey data to better understand the viewpoints of Americans who believe the 2020 presidential election was stolen. The September and November 2020 VOTER Surveys (Views of the Electorate Research Survey) was conducted in partnership with the survey firm YouGov. In total, 5,900 adults (age 18 and up) took the survey online between August 28, 2020 and September 28, 2020. Of those 5,900 respondents, 4,943 were reinterviewed after the election between November 13, 2020 and December 7, 2020. Many of these respondents were long-term panelists originally interviewed by YouGov in 2011-2012 as part of the Cooperative Campaign Analysis Project (CCAP) and then again in the December 2016 VOTER Survey. In total, 3,750 of these long-term panelists participated in the September 2020 wave and 3,340 participated in the November 2020 wave. 

Campaigns and Elections; Civic Participation