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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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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

Could News Bloom in News Deserts?

July 12, 2023

Key PointsDue to the steady decline of print news in America, many Americans now live in news deserts, where there is no newspaper covering local issues. The absence of information on local news and local politics weakens our communities and our political process.Despite this trend, over 100 new papers or online local news sites have opened within the past several years. To stay in business, they have experimented with new approaches to staffing and funding.It may be time to expand the role of government or philanthropy in supporting local news, which produces countless benefits for communities but is rapidly disappearing.

Media

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

Reviving News Media in an Embattled Europe

June 21, 2023

For over a decade, a series of crises have undermined the media's ability to support democracy. Traditional business models have collapsed with the rise of the internet and social media platforms. Hyperpartisan news sites and disinformation have damaged readers' trust in online content. At the same time, illiberal leaders in several democracies have developed sophisticated methods for silencing and co-opting the media.Freedom House conducted in-depth research and interviews with nearly 40 media professionals and experts in six countries: Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, and Poland. The countries vary by market size and by the health of their democracy, but all are part of the European Union (EU), where members are debating important regulatory measures to protect media independence and pluralism under a proposed European Media Freedom Act. Freedom House examined four conditions affecting the playing field for independent news media and their role in democracy: their ability to sustain themselves financially, reach and engage diverse audiences, earn public trust, and play a watchdog role.

Media

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

Unlocking U.S. Audience Demand for International News

March 7, 2023

The quality of international journalism available to readers in the United States leaves much to be desired. Too often, media outlets send "parachute journalists" abroad to report on global communities. Lacking local context, their reporting often misrepresents those communities and defaults to well-trodden themes of war, famine, disease, and disaster. As a result, U.S. readers develop skewed perspectives about people and places abroad.But what if there were a market in the United States for higher-quality, comprehensive international journalism? This study establishes that there is a deep reservoir of untapped demand from readers in the United States—across a wide range of demographics, including noncitizen, diaspora, and migrant populations—for international journalism that is local, precise, and representative. It also resolves the puzzle of why U.S.-based audiences do not proactively seek out such journalism.

Media

American Views 2022: Part 2 - Trust, Media and Democracy

February 15, 2023

Democracy in America relies on an independent press to inform citizens with accurate information. Yet today, two forces pose significant challenges to this function: the growing struggle of news organizations to maintain financial independence and the growing distrust of news among the public.The past five years of Gallup/Knight studies on this topic have focused mostly on the practices of news organizations linked to trust. For example, many Americans say they care about transparency, objectivity and accuracy. But if many news outlets already have high journalistic standards in place, why does trust continue to diminish overall? The focus of the American Views 2022 Part 2 report is to expand understanding of the emotional factors that drive attitudes about the news.

Media

American Views 2022: Part 1 - News in America: Public Good or Private Enterprise?

October 19, 2022

A robust press is vital to a healthy democracy. But newsrooms need resources to create reliable news that is accessible and free from influence. Since 2017, Gallup and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation have studied public opinion on the news media's role in American democracy, with a focus on Americans' expectations and evaluations of the news in delivering on its civic function of informing the public. In this report, Gallup and Knight turned their focus to American views on how the news should be sustained. The research underscores the urgency of developing revenue models that will support trustworthy journalism today.The top findings include: Most Americans believe news organizations prioritize their own business needs – over serving the public interestDespite Americans' emphasis on the media's commercial nature, seven in 10 Americans say they have never paid for newsMore than half (52%) believe advertising should be a news organization's largest revenue sourceAmericans, particularly Gen Z and millennials, do show an openness to public funding and reliance on private donations as a way to support the newsEvents and newsletters could be a promising revenue source

Media

Freedom on the Net 2022: Countering an Authoritarian Overhaul of the Internet

October 18, 2022

At home and on the international stage, authoritarians are on a campaign to divide the open internet into a patchwork of repressive enclaves.Key Findings:Global internet freedom declined for the 12th consecutive year.Governments are breaking apart the global internet to create more controllable online spaces.China was the world's worst environment for internet freedom for the eighth consecutive year.A record 26 countries experienced internet freedom improvements.Internet freedom in the United States improved marginally for the first time in six years.Human rights hang in the balance amid a competition to control the web.

Media

Digital Dictatorship: Authoritarian Tactics and Resistance in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

October 13, 2022

The use of technology to repress democratic dissent is nothing new. Countries such as China and Russia are widely documented repeat offenders when it comes to deploying authoritarian tactics in digital spaces. Our latest report, Digital dictatorship: authoritarian tactics and resistance in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, explains how a digital dictatorship can emerge and how pro-democracy activists are fighting back.

Free Speech; Media

A Guide to Protecting Newsrooms and Journalists Against Online Violence

September 27, 2022

Online violence poses a constant threat to journalists, resulting in serious implications for press freedom, including self-censorship. This abuse disproportionately affects women and diverse journalists who are often reluctant to speak out for fear of jeopardizing their careers.The IWMF is dedicated to promoting a culture of change in newsrooms when it comes to tackling online violence. This guide details policies and best practices newsrooms can implement to better protect staff members who are targeted simply for doing their jobs.The guide also includes case studies from six months of work with a wide range of newsrooms – from small specialized outlets covering health in South Africa to established independent newsrooms in the United States.

Media

Information Gaps and Misinformation in the 2022 Elections

August 2, 2022

The problem of election misinformation is vast. Part of the problem occurs when there is high demand for information about a topic, but the supply of accurate and reliable information is inadequate to meet that demand. The resulting information gap creates opportunities for misinformation to emerge and spread.One major election information gap developed in 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic drove many states to expand access to voting by mail. Inadequate public knowledge about the process left room for disinformation mongers to spread false claims that mail voting would lead to widespread fraud. Election officials could not fill information gaps with accurate information in time. As is now well known, no less than former President Trump promoted these false claims, among others, to deny the 2020 presidential election results and provoke the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.In 2022, false narratives about a stolen 2020 election persist, even as an unprecedented spate of restrictive voting law changes across the country has created fresh information gaps and, thus, fresh opportunities for misinformation. Since 2020, at least 18 states have shrunk voting access, often in ways that dramatically alter procedures voters might remember from the past. Meanwhile, lies and vitriol about the 2020 election have affected perceptions of election administration in ways that complicate work to defend against misinformation.This paper identifies some of the most significant information gaps around elections in 2022 and new developments in elections oversight that will make it harder to guard against misinformation. Ultimately, it recommends strategies that election officials, journalists, social media companies, civic groups, and individuals can and should use to prevent misinformation from filling gaps in public knowledge. Lessons from other subjects, such as Covid-19 vaccine ingredients and technologies, show how timely responses and proactive "prebunking" with accurate information help to mitigate misinformation.

Campaigns and Elections; Media