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

Enhancing Accessibility in U.S. Elections

July 8, 2021

In 2020, voters with disabilities turned out in force in one of the most consequential elections in U.S. history. According to data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 62 percent of disabled voters cast a ballot in the November 2020 election, compared with just about 56 percent of disabled voters who participated in the 2016 presidential election. 2020's high turnout is demonstrative of disabled voters' unwavering resolve to make their voices heard and to fully participate in American democracy. While all voters—regardless of disability status—experienced difficulties in registering to vote and casting ballots last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, disabled voters faced particularly significant challenges. This report examines the barriers disabled voters face when participating in elections and proposes solutions for improving the voting experience and encouraging voter participation.

Campaigns and Elections; Civic Participation
Featured

Black Women Did That: A Call to Invest in the Civic Health of Black Women in America

June 1, 2021

Strong civic participation is key to facilitating democratic responsiveness and advocating for a more equitable society. While Black women have recently begun to receive recognition for their contributions to the democratic process, discourse is often limited exclusively to election cycles. Additionally, previous research and political discourse had examined civic participation by race or gender, but has failed to address the unique position of Black women in politics and civil society. Thus, this report uses various civic health metrics, including electoral and non-electoral civic participation, as well as policy analysis rooted in BGV's three policy pillars (educational improvement, economic development, and healthcare access). In doing this, the report highlights the degree to which Black women's political participation and efficacy can manifest. Our findings and analysis illuminate the importance of identifying the unique struggles of Black women in America through an intersectional lens.

Civic Participation

It's Complicated: People and Their Democracy in Germany, France, Britain, Poland, and the United States

July 1, 2021

This in-depth study explores how citizens in five countries (Germany, France, Britain, Poland, and the United States) feel about democracy, their frustrations, and their demands, with a particular focus on those with an ambivalent relationship with democracy.

Civic Participation; Government

Which Women Can Run?: The Fundraising Gap in the 2020 Elections’ Competitive Primaries

June 9, 2021

Women ran, donated and voted in record numbers during the 2020 elections, despite a global pandemic and the ensuing recession that has fallen on overt gender and racial lines. Still, intersectional racial and gender fundraising gaps persisted when women, particularly women of color, ran in 2020 primary and general elections. Campaign finance remains a barrier of entry for many demographic groups of women, especially in primary elections. OpenSecrets' new gender and race report, Which Women Can Run? The Fundraising Gap in the 2020 Elections' Competitive Primaries, examines the variables that create barriers early on for women, especially women of color, and the variables that lead these candidates toward successful campaigns. Our goal is to address and document how gender and race impact primaries.

Campaigns and Elections; Civic Participation

Clean Slate for Worker Power: Building a Just Economy and Democracy

January 22, 2020

Across our entire history, access to economic and political power has been unforgivably shaped by racial and gender discrimination, as well as by discrimination based on immigration status, by sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination, and by ableism. And, truth be told, the American labor movement has itself often failed to insist upon a genuinely inclusive and equitable America.What we need, then, is a new labor law that is capable of empowering all workers to demand a truly equitable American democracy and a genuinely equitable American economy. This report contains many recommendations for how to construct such a labor law, but all of the recommendations are geared toward achieving this overarching goal. In fact, while the policy recommendations are detailed and at times complex, the theory of Clean Slate is simple: When labor law enables working people to build organizations of countervailing power, the people can demand for themselves a more equitable nation.

Civic Participation

Zero Disenfranchisement: The Movement to Restore Voting Rights

August 27, 2019

The increase in attention being paid to felony disenfranchisement laws warrants a serious overview of felony disenfranchisement in the U.S. This report will discuss the history of felony disenfranchisement laws and their impact on our society, analyze the arguments surrounding felony disenfranchisement laws, and explore the movement to restore voting rights to people with felony convictions. This report also concludes with recommendations for states and advocacy groups interested in starting work in the Restoration of Voting Rights Movement.

Civic Participation

American Democracy in Crisis: The Challenges of Voter Knowledge, Participation, and Polarization

July 17, 2018

"American Democracy in Crisis: The Challenges of Voter Knowledge, Participation, and Polarization"— the first of a series of surveys from PRRI/The Atlantic examining challenges to democratic institutions and practices— finds an alarming number of Americans do not know what factors qualify people for or disqualify people from voting. The survey also finds large divides by political party, race, and ethnicity regarding the biggest problems facing the U.S. electoral system. At the same time, there is strong, bipartisan support for a range of policies that increase access to the ballot.

Campaigns and Elections; Civic Participation

The Humble Members of Society": Understanding Populism in the United States

June 1, 2018

This report traces the antiestablishment roots of populism, arguing that it is a manifestation of the principal problem inherent to representative government. In the Anglo-American political universe, it first appeared in the early 18th century in the ways the Country Whigs modified the English Commonwealth tradition to attack the economic policies of Robert Walpole. Migrating to America after the Seven Years' War, it manifested itself in the Anti-Federalist opposition to the Constitution, Jeffersonian complaints about Hamiltonian economics, and Jacksonian democracy. In all these instances, populist antiestablishment sentiment envisioned a kind of conspiracy of the wealthy, well-born, and connected to hijack republican government, denying the rightful rule of the people and ensconcing the elite in permanent power. As industrial capitalism facilitated vast inequalities of wealth and power, the ancient anxieties have been notably persistent—such as the agrarian Populists and Bull Moose Progressives, the George Wallace phenomenon, and finally the tea party and Trump movement. While the complaints of each faction are different in the specifics, the underlying grievance, that the privileged few have interfered with the connection between the people and their elected leaders, has been notably consistent.

Campaigns and Elections; Civic Participation; Government

AEI Political Report: Election 2018 preview

May 30, 2018

In the June issue of AEI's Political Report, we look at early 2018 polls ahead of this year's congressional elections and how they relate to polls in previous midterms. We also use exit polls to see how key groups voted in past off-year elections.

Campaigns and Elections; Civic Participation

America's Electoral Future: Demographic Shifts and the Future of the Trump Coalition

April 1, 2018

The 2016 election was an election that defied most expectations. An unorthodox candidate put together an unexpected coalition of states to win the Electoral College while losing the popular vote by almost 3 million votes. As the nation's demographics change, questions remain about whether this coalition can hold together for Republicans in 2020 and beyond, and how the shifting views and increased diversity within millennial and post-millennial generations will impact the future of U.S. politics.

Civic Participation

Free Expression on Campus: What College Students Think about First Amendment Issues

March 12, 2018

First Amendment freedoms continue to be tested on U.S. college campuses as higher education institutions strive to achieve goals that can occasionally come into conflict. These include encouraging the open discussion of ideas and exposing students to people of different backgrounds and viewpoints while making all students feel included and respected on campus. In 2016, Gallup, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Newseum Institute conducted a landmark, nationally representative study of college students. The survey found that students believed First Amendment freedoms were secure, and they generally preferred that campuses be open environments that encourage a wide range of expression. However, students supported restrictions on certain types of speech, such as hate speech, and many were sympathetic to students' attempts to deny the press access to campus protests, such as those that occurred over race-related issues in the 2015-16 school year.

Civic Participation; Government

The State of Civics Education

February 21, 2018

The policy solution that has garnered the most momentum to improve civics in recent years is a standard that requires high school students to pass the U.S. citizenship exam before graduation. According to this analysis, 17 states have taken this path. Yet, critics of a mandatory civics exam argue that the citizenship test does nothing to measure comprehension of the material and creates an additional barrier to high school graduation. Other states have adopted civics as a requirement for high school graduation, provided teachers with detailed civics curricula, offered community service as a graduation requirement, and increased the availability of Advance Placement (AP) U. S. government classes. When civics education is taught effectively, it can equip students with the knowledge, skills, and disposition necessary to become informed and engaged citizens. Educators must also remember that civics is not synonymous with history. While increasing history courses and service requirements are potential steps to augment students' background knowledge and skill sets, civics is a narrow and instrumental instruction that provides students with the agency to apply these skills. This analysis finds a wide variation in state requirements and levels of youth engagement. While this research highlights that no state currently provides sufficient and comprehensive civic education, there is reason to be optimistic that high-quality civics education can impact civic behavior.

Civic Participation