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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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2022 Primary Turnout: Trends and Lessons for Boosting Participation

March 6, 2023

This report examines turnout trends during the 2022 primary elections, conducted in 49 states and the District of Columbia, compared with turnout during the 2010, 2014, and 2018 midterm election cycles (Louisiana holds its primary on Election Day.) The paper also analyzes whether certain policy changes—such as unifying primary dates or adopting open primary or "top-two" or "top-four" formats—can boost voter participation.This paper is a follow-up to BPC's 2018 Primary Turnout and Reform Recommendations report, which found persistently low participation rates across states and over time.Low primary turnout should be an ongoing concern for political parties, policymakers, and the public, given primaries' outsized influence in our representative government. As these trends have intensified and turnout has yet to reach reasonable benchmarks, bold steps should be taken to increase participation in primary contests. Our analysis sheds light on the ability of various proposals to boost turnout.

Campaigns and Elections; Civic Participation

Mitigating Online Misleading Information and Polarization in Conflict-Sensitive Contexts: Experimental Evidence from Côte d’Ivoire

August 3, 2023

As misinformation and polarization increase, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) faces new challenges in its support for electoral integrity, party development, democratic governance, and citizen participation. Our Global Design, Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (G-DMEL) team, in partnership with NDI's Côte d'Ivoire program, aimed to answer the following question: What kinds of democracy interventions - separately or in combination – can impact online misinformation uptake and dissemination among youth, and reduce affective polarizations across partisan divides? With funding from the NED and in collaboration with leading academic researchers from Evidence in Governance And Politics (EGAP), NDI experimentally tested the impacts of four types of intervention hypotheses: one based on capacity building (training on digital literacy) and three designed to mitigate socio-political motivations to consume and disseminate misinformation. The findings revealed that traditional digital literacy interventions alone did not change youth capacity to identify misinformation, nor their behavior in knowingly sharing misinformation. Surprisingly, social identity interventions did have impacts, but in unexpected directions. These critical insights are paving the way for NDI to rethink strategies to combat misinformation in highly polarized environments.

Campaigns and Elections; Civic Participation; Media

The Retreat of Influence: Exploring the Decline of Nonprofit Advocacy and Public Engagement

July 18, 2023

Key findings:A significantly lower proportion of nonprofits report advocating or lobbying compared to 20 years ago.Mission plays the largest role in determining nonprofit advocacy and lobbying.Today, significantly fewer nonprofits know advocacy activities they are legally allowed to do compared to 20 years ago.Although a majority of nonprofits have a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) statement, only 36% of them engage in policy activities to create more equitable systems.Nonprofits that belong to collaborative groups advocate at higher rates than those that are not members.Only 13% of nonprofits conduct nonpartisan activities to help people vote.

Civic Participation

An Immigration Advocate's Need-to-know for Policy Change: A Conversation with the APA's Katherine B. McGuire

June 27, 2023

This policy brief is based on a conversation with Katherine B. McGuire, chief advocacy officer of the American Psychological Association (APA) and a special guest at the Baker Institute Migration Initiative's "Conversations on Immigration" event on April 25, 2023. McGuire suggested that, instead of losing sight of their goals, immigration reform advocates learn to navigate today's political environment and use opportunities to push for progressive legislation on immigration by engaging with policymakers on both sides of the aisle as well as their constituents. According to McGuire, immigration reform advocates should work toUnderstand the political landscape at both the federal and state levels.Find common ground with members of Congress.Soften resistance at the state level.Educate the American public on the harmful mis- and disinformation about immigrants through storytelling, a powerful tool to prime the political landscape for change — the key objective of advocacy work.

Civic Participation; Media

Unlocking the Power of Immigrant Communities

June 21, 2023

Thriving communities of first- and second-generation immigrants exist across the country, building robust networks of mutual support and honoring their shared cultures. Although some of these residents may be ineligible to vote, their American-born and/or naturalized family members do indeed have the right. Yet, voter participation gaps suggest voters from immigrant communities are turning out to vote at rates lower than their non-immigrant counterparts.

Civic Participation

Building the Democracy We Need for the Twenty-First Century

June 21, 2023

This toolkit situates collaborative governance, also known as "co-governance," within a framework for building community that sees civic education, relationship building, and leadership development as essential first steps toward an effective and sustained participatory process. It offers key takeaways and best practices from effective, ongoing collaborative governance projects between communities and decision makers. The best of these projects shift decision-making power to the hands of communities to make room for more deliberation, consensus, and lasting change. Building on the lessons of successful case studies from across the United States, including Georgia, Kentucky, New York, and Washington, this toolkit aims to support local leaders inside and outside government as they navigate and execute co-governance models in their communities.

Civic Participation

Improving Youth Online Safety without Sacrificing Privacy and Speech

June 20, 2023

Policymakers at state and federal levels have called for regulation of social media and other technology for children and teenagers. Many in the public are worried about young people being exposed to harmful content, the effect of social media on teenage mental health, and the amount of time young people are spending on new technology. Yet regulations are being proposed (and in some cases have been enacted) that would use blunt tactics that raise serious issues for the privacy and speech of children, teens, and adults and fail to address the proponents' often well‐intentioned concerns even truly.

Civic Participation; Media

How Michigan Became a Blueprint for Strengthening Democracy

June 15, 2023

This report details the increase in civic participation as a result of the voting and election reforms in Michigan, as well as the success and continued support that independent redistricting has garnered in helping to secure fair representation in the state. It analyzes the critical role that citizen-initiated constitutional amendments have had in strengthening the state's democratic foundation, helping Michigan become a blueprint for voting reform and increased representation and voter participation as well as successful policy implementation. Lastly, this report positions Michigan in strong contrast to antidemocratic efforts pushed by lawmakers in other states.

Civic Participation

Equis 2022 Post-Mortem: Latino Voters & The Case of the Missing Red Wave

June 15, 2023

This reports reflects a high-level analysis of Latino voter trends in the 2022 election. Many narratives — some more substantiated than others — contributed to a sense of uncertainty around Latino voting in the lead-up to the midterms. But what factors ended up shaping the final results, and what do they portend for 2024?At the end of the day, there turned out to be basic stability in support levels among Latinos in highly-contested races, despite another steep decline for Democrats among Hispanics in Florida. In short: the GOP held gains they had made since 2016/2018 but weren't able to build on them.What it Means for 2024: Those who didn't vote in 2022 are the biggest wildcard thisnext cycle. Swing Latinos still seem to default to Dems but are open to individualRepublicans, with greater support possible when there is a major shift in the issueenvironment, imbalanced campaigning, or a weakening of identity bonds. We start2024 where we started 2022: with uncertainty and dynamism.

Civic Participation

Freedom to Learn Freedom to Vote

June 12, 2023

Following the Democratic 2020 presidential election win, we began to see conservative backlash occur at the state level. One of these tactics included targeting education, particularly, the diversification of school curriculums that emphasize the significance of racial and gender identities in the United States. This resource guide serves as our way to bring awareness to the stifling of academic freedom. Black women scholars and authors' writings have become a pinnacle target of these state and local directed efforts to limit knowledge on race in America. In response, this resource guide is our form of solidarity with Black women and femme scholars whose work and livelihoods have been targeted by relentless, misogynoir-led ideological attacks, both politically and socially. We provide a brief history and timeline of the issue, resources to support efforts to combat it, the names and works of the Black women and femme scholars being targeted, and practical ways to get involved–both nationally and locally–to push back against these heinous attacks. As Black Girls Vote continues its mission of advocating and protecting the political rights and well-being of Black women and girls on all fronts, we unwaveringly join the fight to protect and ensure academic freedom for all!

Civic Participation

Asian Americans in the 2022 Midterm Elections: Findings From the 2022 National Poll of Asian American Non-Voters and Voters

May 30, 2023

This report presents the topline results of the 2022 National Poll of Asian American Non-Voters and Voters, a survey commissioned by Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC and fielded in the weeks following the 2022 midterm elections. The poll interviewed 2,100 Asian American voters and 700 non-voters (i.e., registered but did not vote and eligible but not registered) and asked respondents about their views on and experiences during the election.

Campaigns and Elections; Civic Participation

The Antidote to Authoritarianism: How an Organizing Revival Can Build a Multiracial Pluralistic Democracy and an Inclusive Economy

May 23, 2023

How can we build a multiracial and pluralistic democracy with an inclusive economy to defeat the rise of authoritarianism? This question is front and center for People's Action Institute and our allies. How can we strengthen our democracy, when some feel it fails them, and others want to eliminate it? In our new White Paper, The Antidote to Authoritarianism, People's Action Institute takes this crisis by the horns. Through in-depth conversations with 27 of the most experienced and thoughtful leaders who build power among the multiracial poor and working class – current and former directors of national networks for social change, academics, philanthropists and on-the-ground organizers engaged in the defense of civil society – we explore current challenges and chart the path towards a shared solution.

Civic Participation