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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Revitalizing Civic Engagement through Collaborative Governance: Stories of Success From Around the United States

December 16, 2022

A growing level of political dysfunction and hyper-partisan polarization has led us to a critical point in the way we govern. With democracy under threat and deep distrust of democratic institutions, how can we instill innovative reforms centered around real influence and decision-making power? At a moment of extreme vulnerability, communities and civic organizations need to have genuine political agency by directly influencing policy decision-making. Collaborative governance—or "co-governance"—offers an opportunity to create new forms of civic power. This report offers lessons from across local, city, state, and federal policymaking and highlights effective models of co-governance from community leaders and those in government.

Civic Participation

Defusing the History Wars: Finding Common Ground in Teaching America’s National Story

December 1, 2022

Our recent survey found that people have more in common than they think when it comes to their opinions on U.S. history. However, they incorrectly think members of the opposing party have views much different than they do - this is called a perception gap and it creates imagined enemies of their fellow Americans.

Civic Participation

Primary Runoff Elections and Decline in Voter Turnout

November 9, 2022

Ten states hold primary runoff elections if no candidate wins a majority of the votes in a major party's primary: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, North Carolina (30% threshold), and South Dakota (35% threshold).This report studies three decades of primary runoff elections. Based on turnout declines, disparate outcomes for voters of color, and high costs of runoff elections, FairVote recommends ranked choice voting, also known as instant runoff voting, as a way to preserve the goals of runoff elections while solving their pervasive issues.

Campaigns and Elections; Civic Participation

The Changing Demographics of the Electorate at a State Level

October 27, 2022

While less than two full presidential election cycles ago, 2016 may feel like a significant time ago politically. Hotly contested midterm elections and the 2020 presidential contest, the coronavirus, and now the war in Ukraine have all transformed the tenor and dynamics of American politics. So too have the demographics of the electorate changed since 2016.Data from the 2020 Census has already shown how the U.S. population has continued and even sped up its demographic diversification. This demographic change in the overall population has trickled slowly into the electorate as younger, more diverse generations of U.S.-born people age into voting eligibility and as more foreign-born individuals take the important step of gaining U.S. citizenship and the right the vote.With the 2022 midterm elections on the horizon, this factsheet takes a look at the latest Current Population Survey data from 2022 and compares it to data from 2020 and 2016 in order to provide a snapshot of which states' electorates are changing the most rapidly. In some swing states where close races are expected to take place, the extent to which changing electorates can be activated by different campaigns may help determine who wins and who loses come November.

Civic Participation

Midterms 2022: The Changing Demographics of the Electorate

October 3, 2022

2016 may not feel like a significant time ago, but the 2020 elections, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the war in Ukraine have all transformed the tenor and dynamics of American politics. Beyond political developments, the demographics of the electorate have continued to evolve significantly over this time.Data from the 2020 Census already demonstrated how the U.S. population has continued to diversify ethnically and racially. This demographic change is now being seen in the voting-eligible population, as younger and more diverse generations age into voting eligibility and as more immigrants take the important step of gaining U.S. citizenship and the right to vote.With the 2022 midterm elections on the horizon, this map uses data from the Current Population Survey to show which states' electorates are changing most rapidly. In swing states where close races are expected to take place, the extent to which changing electorates can be activated by each campaign may ultimately help determine who wins and loses come November.

Civic Participation

Black Americans Have a Clear Vision for Reducing Racism but Little Hope It Will Happen

August 30, 2022

Pew Research Center conducted this analysis to understand the nuances among Black people on issues of racial inequality and social change in the United States. This in-depth survey explores differences among Black Americans in their views on the social status of the Black population in the U.S.; their assessments of racial inequality; their visions for institutional and social change; and their outlook on the chances that these improvements will be made. The analysis is the latest in the Center's series of in-depth surveys of public opinion among Black Americans (read the first, "Faith Among Black Americans" and "Race Is Central to Identity for Black Americans and Affects How They Connect With Each Other").The online survey of 3,912 Black U.S. adults was conducted Oct. 4-17, 2021. Black U.S. adults include those who are single-race, non-Hispanic Black Americans; multiracial non-Hispanic Black Americans; and adults who indicate they are Black and Hispanic. The survey includes 1,025 Black adults on Pew Research Center's American Trends Panel (ATP) and 2,887 Black adults on Ipsos' KnowledgePanel. Respondents on both panels are recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses.Recruiting panelists by phone or mail ensures that nearly all U.S. Black adults have a chance of selection. This gives us confidence that any sample can represent the whole population (see our Methods 101 explainer on random sampling). 

Civic Participation

Changing the Frame: Civic Engagement Through a Racial Equity Lens

August 2, 2022

This report challenges past narratives suggesting Chicago's civic life is precarious and offers a broader analysis of civic life using a racial equity lens. According to the analysis, race and class differences in civic engagement disappear or reverse when including a wide range of less formal activities and forms of collective organizing practiced among Black, Latinx, and working-class people in Chicago.Since the 1960s, traditional measures of civic engagement have shown declining rates of civic health. These accounts of civic decline often focus exclusively on voting and donating one's time, talent, and income to traditional nonprofit organizations. This report provides new ways to assess civic life in Chicago, including participation in social movements like the immigrant rights movement, the growth in the number of nonprofits established, and social cohesion as captured through the hosting of block parties.Through interviews and analysis of nonprofits in Chicago, the report captures the perspective of organizers, academics, and funders who provide their unique perspectives on the state of civic engagement in Chicago. By framing civic engagement through a racial equity lens, the report provides a broader view of civic participation that can be used to catalyze and drive action.

Civic Participation

Influencing Young America to Act: Summer 2022

August 1, 2022

On May 2, a leaked draft opinion by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito revealed that the court planned to overturn Roe v. Wade, the case that affirmed a person's Constitutional right to have an abortion. On May 14, a mass shooting at a Buffalo, New York, grocery store killed 14 people; 10 days later, 19 children and two teachers inside an elementary school were killed by a teenage gunman. By the end of June, President Joe Biden had signed a $15 billion bill passed by Congress to add some restrictions to gun ownership, and the Supreme Court had removed federal abortion protections.These are the moments and events that transpired right before research began for this second report of 2022 from Cause and Social Influence. Each quarter, CSI tracks the behaviors and motivations of young Americans (ages 18-30) related to social issues and major moments. This report presents findings on data tracked all year for comparison, then focuses specifically on the social issues of guns and women's reproductive rights due to recent cultural, social and political events.

Civic Participation; Government

The Democratic Party’s Transformation More Diverse, Educated, and Liberal but Less Religious

July 28, 2022

Key PointsThe number of white Americans identifying with the Democratic Party collapsed during Barack Obama's presidency. In 2009, more than two-thirds (68 percent) of Democrats were white. Today, only 56 percent of Democrats are white.Over the past two decades, the Democratic Party has become much more liberal. Half (50 percent) of Democrats today identify as liberal, while only 28 percent did so in 1998.Democrats are far less religious today than they were a generation ago. Only 43 percent of Democrats today say religion is a very important part of their lives—a roughly 20 percentage point drop from the late 1990s

Civic Participation

Strengthening Models of Civic Engagement: Community-Informed Approaches to Inclusive and Equitable Decision-Making

July 22, 2022

For too long the federal policymaking process has been mysterious and inaccessible to everyone but the most sophisticated, elite stakeholders. Not only has this made the policymaking process exclusive to long-standing players with connections and resources, but it has also made it extremely difficult for most Americans, especially those from underrepresented communities, to be engaged in authentic ways with federal agencies and institutions.When the Biden-Harris administration took office, one of their very first acts was to issue an executive order to advance equity and racial justice throughout federal agencies and institutions. This was quickly followed by orders intended to transform the experience of interacting with government, modernize the federal regulatory process, and strengthen tribal consultations and nation-to-nation relationships. Together, these efforts push the executive branch to improve equity and racial justice through more inclusive policy processes.In this spirit, New America's Political Reform program and Harvard University's Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation hosted a series of listening sessions to help government officials identify methods of stakeholder engagement among traditionally underrepresented and marginalized communities to inform policy even beyond the current administration.

Civic Participation

Youth Mandate – The School Board Elections Toolkit: How young people can build power through school board elections for 501(c)(3) Organizations

July 12, 2022

In the era of COVID-19 and following the 2020 wave of nationwide uprisings contesting white supremacy, United States politics have grown increasingly polarized at every level of government. Communities across the country are waging battles along partisan and ideological lines, from debates over public health measures, such as mask-wearing and vaccines, to whether to teach young people the truth about this country's legacy of enduring systemic racism or "critical race theory" and the need for police free schools. While there are limited opportunities for engagement on these issues at the national level, many community members have sought opportunities to engage in local politics. As a result, school boards – the most local and easily accessible form of government – have become sites of intense political and cultural debate.Indeed, the country has seen a recent flurry of engagement in school board races and increased scrutiny over election outcomes. A recent analysis by Ballotpedia identified at least 84 attempted school board recalls against 215 board members in 2021 – a significant increase from any other year since at least 2009. However, while school board activity has intensified since 2020, local activism in school board politics is not a new phenomenon. Since the 1950s, school board politics have proven meaningful to Black and Brown communities as they organize to dismantle white supremacy and fight for education justice in their communities.At this moment, with heightened levels of community engagement in school boards across the country, there are viable opportunities for young people, parents, and community members to participate in this critical site of local power and uplift their issues through the electoral process. The communities already building their participation in school board advocacy are demanding that school board members address how Black and Brown young people face harm in schools (including the racist and punitive school discipline policies and the presence of police and security in schools). They are calling on school board members to align with their bold vision for a liberatory education system based on inclusion, equity, and racial justice principles.

Civic Participation

Fourth of July in America: American Identity Research Project May - June 2022

June 29, 2022

Although the United States has always had competing narratives about its national identity, today the competition has transformed into a dangerous fight. A critical piece of moving America towards a healthier, more inclusive democracy will be lifting up narratives of national identity that can reach and resonate across lines of difference.Since 2020, More in Common has been studying beliefs and attitudes towards American identity and how they vary across groups in the United States. Beginning in February 2022, More in Common began organizing monthly meetings of a table of non-profits and civil society partners who are similarly invested in the subject of American history and identity, and who want to act from an evidence base to draw Americans together. These partners serve as collaborators and informal advisers on this project.In May and June 2022, More in Common partnered with YouGov to field a national survey to a representative sample of 2,500 adult U.S. citizens. This survey is the first of three that will be fielded in 2022 to explore associations with American identity, figures and events in American history, connections to national holidays, aspirations for our shared future, and more.The attitudes captured in the data show significant concerns around Americas future and its ability to live up to its ideals. The findings also reveal a wide spectrum of strength of attachment to American identity. Between the points of polarization, we see meaningful commonality in seeing the United States with nuance and humility, indicating the potential for American identity to help transcend conflict between groups and bridge lines of political division. Many Americans share the same family narratives, aspirations for the country, and support for various historic figures, events and holidays.

Civic Participation