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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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

Improving the Census Legal and Policy Reforms for a More Accurate, Equitable, and Legitimate Count

September 13, 2022

The census is a cornerstone of American democracy. The results of this constitutionally required, once-a-decade count of every person living in the United States dictate how seats in the House of Representatives are divided among the states, how state and local governments draw electoral districts, and how more than $1.5 trillion annually in federal funds is distributed for essential services such as health care, food assistance, and education. At its best, the census offers an authentic picture of who we are as a diverse and growing nation.The 2020 census struggled. It faced a barrage of obstacles, from executive interference to chronic underfunding to the Covid-19 pandemic. In the face of these challenges, it ultimately failed to reach 18.8 million people — more than 5 percent of the country's population. What's more, the census once again disproportionately undercounted people of color, with the Latino undercount rate more than tripling from the prior decade. And multiple states were undercounted by significant margins. These inaccuracies compromise the census's ability to fairly distribute political power and federal funding both across states and across communities, undercutting the democratic promise of our political system. Meanwhile, overall census response rates remain stuck in a rut, costs are rising, and the bureau's reliance on labor-intensive door-to-door outreach is showing its limits. The census is too critical to continue in this precarious state.This paper sets forth a blueprint for reforming the law and policy of the decennial population count. Our goal is to make future censuses more accurate, equitable, and legitimate. An accurate census correctly captures the number and demographic characteristics of all people residing in the country. An equitable census is designed, funded, and run to count all groups precisely and to distribute political power and economic support commensurate with each community's fair share. A legitimate census — one that is scientifically rigorous and democratically accountable and boasts universal participation — warrants and inspires widespread trust. Legitimacy and accuracy require equity; an equitable census is free from the long-running tendency to undercount Black, Latino, and Native American communities in comparison with white ones, inspiring confidence in its fundamental fairness.


How Nongovernmental Stakeholders Can Support States in Advancing Evidence-Based Policymaking

September 12, 2022

Evidence-based policymaking has helped many states across the country ensure that their budget and policy decisions are informed by the best available data. Yet, even for those states that have made significant progress using this approach, barriers remain to institutionalizing its use. By ensuring that the creation and use of evidence becomes embedded in the way state governments make decisions, leaders and policymakers can better serve their populations effectively and equitably.This report offers guidance on ways that nongovernment stakeholders can help evolve states' progress by addressing persistent challenges to the routine use of evidence.


As Partisan Hostility Grows, Signs of Frustration With the Two-Party System

August 9, 2022

Pew Research Center conducted this study to better understand Americans' feelings about the country's major political parties and the reasons why they choose to affiliate with or lean toward a party. For this analysis, we surveyed 6,174 U.S. adults between June 27 and July 4, 2022. Everyone who took part in this survey is a member of the Center's American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories.


More than Consumers: Post-Neoliberal Identities and Economic Governance

August 3, 2022

In the first 18 months of the Biden presidency, while the administration executed one of the fastest economic recoveries in memory following the COVID-induced recession, rising prices nevertheless helped stall the progressive agenda. For policymakers, journalists, and the American public, inflation felt more salient than record employment levels.This report argues that this is partly due to the way in which policymakers and the public understand themselves: For generations, our government has understood its constituents primarily as consumers, with their other identities—workers, parents, etc.—taking a back seat, and Americans, in turn, have understood their government as responsible primarily for maintaining functioning consumer markets rather than providing essential public resources.By looking at how policymakers since the New Deal have conceptualized the intersection of inflation, wages, and prices, this report explores how the governance stance shared across parties became one that imagined Americans' primary identity as that of consumer. And while progressives have moved away from policies that center markets and the consumer in recent years, they've continued to frame the policy conversation around consumer identities.The scope of the challenges we face—from racial inequality to the climate crisis to the care crisis—cannot be addressed by the market. Only direct government intervention can affirmatively build the economy we need at the scale and speed we need. To explain and win this broad agenda, we need to change our approach and move beyond consumer-first governance.


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

On July Fourth, how Americans see their country and their democracy

June 30, 2022

On the Fourth of July, Americans celebrate the nation's birthday and reflect on the values that have sustained the country in the nearly 250 years since the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. Americans' views vary when it comes to how they see the United States' standing in the world and the state of its democracy. Here are key findings from Pew Research Center surveys.


Changing Power Dynamics among Researchers, Local Governments, and Community Members: A Community Engagement and Racial Equity Guidebook

June 22, 2022

Increasingly, local governments seek to partner with research institutions to understand and undo their legacy of racist policymaking and other aspects of structural racism. This legacy includes historical and current policies, programs, and institutional practices that have facilitated white families' social and economic upward mobility and well-being while creating systemic barriers to the mobility and well-being of families of color.This toolkit highlights community-based approaches that can catalyze equitable public policy, programs, and investments by centering a community's expertise. Our aim is to equip local government agencies and their research partners with the tools needed to transform practices, structures, and systems by joining the highly collaborative processes of racial equity and community engagement. The toolkit is designed for local governments but also for researchers and policy experts who partner with local governments.

Civic Participation; Government

Americans’ Views of Government: Decades of Distrust, Enduring Support for Its Role

June 6, 2022

Pew Research Center conducted this study to better understand Americans' attitudes about U.S. government. For this analysis, we surveyed 5,074 U.S. adults in April and May 2022. Everyone who took part in this survey is a member of the Center's American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. 


Scoring Federal Legislation for Equity: Definition, Framework, and Potential Application

June 6, 2022

Federal legislation is fundamental to building a nation in which all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential. Since our nation's founding, in many ways, federal legislation has created and exacerbated racial inequities, leaving one-third of the population experiencing material poverty and preventing our democracy from realizing the promise of equity. To ensure the federal government serves us all, we must accurately understand and assess whether every policy advances or impedes equity. The Equity Scoring Initiative (ESI) exists to establish the foundation for a new legislative scoring regime. By scoring for equity, we can begin to create an accountable, responsive democracy.


Trump on Trial: A Guide to the January 6 Hearings and the Question of Criminality

June 6, 2022

President Joe Biden legitimately won a fair and secure 2020 presidential election--and Donald Trump lost. This historical fact has been uncontroverted by any evidence since at least November 7, 2020, when major news outlets projected Biden's victory. But Trump never conceded. Instead, both before and after Election Day, he tried to delegitimize the election results by disseminating a series of far-fetched and evidence-free claims of fraud. Meanwhile, with a ring of close confidants, Trump conceived and implemented unprecedented schemes to--in his own words--"overturn" the election outcome. Among the results of this "Big Lie" campaign were the terrible events of January 6, 2021--an inflection point in what we now understand was nothing less than an attempted coup.With Congress undertaking landmark hearings on all of that, this report is a comprehensive guide to the proceedings. It covers the Committee's work to date, the key players in the attempt to overturn the election, the known facts regarding their conduct that are expected to be covered at the hearings, and the criminal law applicable to their actions. The report is intended to help readers evaluate all those proceedings going forward.


Slow Nominations and Confirmations Pose a Threat to National Security

May 24, 2022

Experts have long agreed the transition from one presidential administration to another is a vulnerable time for the country, and that new presidents and Congress each have an obligation to fill top national security positions as quickly as possible. As the pandemic, events in Ukraine and other global challenges have demonstrated, continuity in national security leadership is crucial for the security of the U.S. and its allies and partners. Data from the Partnership for Public Service's Center for Presidential Transition, however, reveals chronic delays at nearly every step of the nomination and confirmation process--even for the national security positions that all stakeholders agree are essential to minimize threats during the first months of a new administration.