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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Hidden Tribes: A Study of America’s Polarized Landscape

March 22, 2019

This report lays out the findings of a large-scale national survey of Americans about the current state of civic life in the United States. It provides substantial evidence of deep polarization and growing tribalism. It shows that this polarization is rooted in something deeper than political opinions and disagreements over policy. But it also provides some evidence for optimism, showing that 77 percent of Americans believe our differences are not so great that we cannot come together.

"My" Media Versus "The" Media: Trust in News Depends on Which News Media You Mean

June 18, 2018

For years, studies have shown Americans' trust in the news media is steadily declining. In recent months, the rise of so-called fake news and the rhetoric of President Donald Trump about journalists being "the enemy of the people" have made the question of trust in a free press an even more prominent issue facing the country. At the same time, data show that over the past decade, people have been consuming more news than ever. How are we to explain the apparent paradox? New research released today by the Media Insight Project, a collaboration of the American Press Institute and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, suggests public attitudes about the news media are more complex and nuanced than many traditional studies indicate, with attitudes varying markedly depending on what media people are asked about.


Jumping to Collusions: Americans React to Russia and the Mueller Investigation

June 1, 2018

"Jumping to Collusions" is published by the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group. It is based on the Voter Study Group's 2018 VOTER Survey (Views of the Electorate Survey). In partnership with the survey firm YouGov, the VOTER Survey interviewed 6,005 Americans between April 5 and May 14, 2018, 4,705 of whom have been interviewed previously and 1,300 of whom were part of an additional sample of 18 to 24-year-olds and Hispanics.


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

Monetary Competitiveness in Gubernatorial Elections, 2001-2016

April 24, 2018

Candidates competing against a top fundraiser stand a much better chance if they are competing in a monetarily competitive race. Incumbents, who typically attract the most money, are more vulnerable in monetarily competitive elections. States with public financing programs clearly foster competition in gubernatorial races.


Democratic Representation: Americans’ Frustration with Whose Voices are Represented in Congress

February 23, 2018

With Americans' disapproval of Congress reaching record levels in recent years, the strength of the country's legislative system and America's faith in its outcomes have come into question. This study reveals a new explanation for Americans' dissatisfaction with their elected representatives by showing that people's approval of Congress is tied to their beliefs about how lawmakers are making decisions. The study—conducted by researchers from Stanford University and the University of California, Santa Barbara, in collaboration with The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research—shows that negative attitudes toward Congress relate to the gap between who people think members of Congress should pay attention to when voting on a law and who people think they do pay attention to when voting. The phenomenon cuts across partisan lines, and these perceptions of the decision-making process affect both Democrats' and Republicans' approval of Congress.


Partisanship and the Media: How Personal Politics Affect Where People Go, What They Trust, and Whether They Pay

December 27, 2017

New research shows that although Americans are in many ways divided in their attitudes toward the media, Republicans and Democrats are in many ways strikingly alike in their behavior toward the news. They are equally likely to pay for news, to get news from social media, to seek it out actively rather than passively, and to get news multiple times a day, according to two recent studies by the Media Insight Project, a collaboration of the American Press Institute and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Republicans and Democrats are also about equally likely to cite a local news source when asked about the news media they use most often and are equally likely to follow news about their towns and neighborhoods. In general, it is independents who stand out from partisans of either stripe, particularly for being less likely to follow news closely or engage in other ways with the news. But putting behavior aside, there are striking and potentially challenging differences among people of different party identifications when it comes to attitudes toward the news. There are also differences in the specific sources Democrats versus Republicans rely on for their information once you move beyond local news. In general, Republicans and independents are less satisfied than Democrats—even with the news sources for which they pay and that they use most often. Democrats, for instance, are more likely than Republicans or independents to say both the sources they use for free and the sources they pay for are reliable. Democrats are also more likely than Republicans or independents to say their paid source is a good value. These partisan differences also exist among just newspaper subscribers. Democrats who subscribe to newspapers are more likely than Republican subscribers to say their newspaper is reliable and to believe it is a good value.


Whose Voice, Whose Choice? The Distorting Influence of the Political Donor Class In Our Big-money Elections

December 8, 2016

Over the last three decades, the Supreme Court has curtailed meaningful limits on political campaign spending and contributions. Te alarming, but predictable, result is the rise of a small group of wealthy elites who make large political contributions with the goal of infuencing election outcomes and policymaking. We are lef with a government that is less responsive to the needs and concerns of ordinary Americans, and more responsive to the needs and concerns of economic elites. To understand what big money in politics means, it is important to understand the "who" and the "what" of political donations: who is spending big money on elections, and what do they want? In the following analysis, we uncover the demographics (the "who") and policy preferences (the "what") of the donor class that dominates U.S. campaign funding, in order to shed light on why money in politics is distorting our democracy in favor of economic elites, and particularly white male elites. Drawing on unique data sets and original data analyses, for the frst time we are able to see who is -- and is not -- represented among big political donors and how their policy concerns difer. The data reveal that the donor class is in fact profoundly unrepresentative of the American population as a whole, and particularly of low-income people and people of color. Our analysis encompasses federal elections in 2012, 2014 and 2016.

Campaigns and Elections

Can Health Centers Increase Voting Among Their Clients, Constituents and Staff? A Report from the 2012 Election

November 1, 2016

To gain a better understanding of the people the health centers reached, we looked at the demographic composition of two goups. The first group was all CHC voters. This goup includes all of the people contacted by the health centers. The second group was all all registered voters. This goup is comprised of all voters in our seven target states, according to the Catalist database. Findings: The clients and constituents contacted by the health centers were dramatically lower income and more diverse than the general pool of registered voters in the seven states. Those in households earning less than $25,000/year comprised 18% of CHC voters, but only 5% of the general population of all registered voters. African Americans made up about 39% of the CHC voters, but only 13% of all registered voters. Hispanic voters made up 22% of CHC voters compared to only 5% in the seven states. In addition, CHC voters were more likely to be women and were notably younger.

Civic Participation

Americans Want an Issues-based Campaign, but Don't Always Agree on Which Issues Matter Most

September 23, 2016

As the 2016 presidential campaign heads into the final stretch, Americans remain just as frustrated and angry about the election as in May when the primaries were drawing to a close. In the latest national poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, the public says their issues and concerns are not being addressed by the campaigns, and there is too much focus on personal aspects of the candidates and not enough on their qualifications.The issues that matter most to the public overall are health care, Social Security, education, and terrorism, although Republicans care more about terrorism while Democrats are more concerned with health care.Regardless of party affiliation, Americans consider the economy and education to be of great importance to them personally. But partisan divisions are found in the level of importance assigned to many other issues asked about in the survey.For example, three-quarters of Democrats say the environment and climate change are extremely or very important to them personally. Only about 4 in 10 Republicans agree. And on the other side of the aisle, more than 8 in 10 Republicans consider the national debt to be extremely or very important, along with just 6 in 10 Democrats.While disappointed in the focus of the 2016 election, this campaign is drawing the public's attention. Two-thirds of Americans say the election interests them in general, and 6 in 10 have paid a good deal of attention to the campaign so far. In comparison, four years ago, less than half of voters surveyed by The New York Times and CBS News said they were paying a lot of attention to the presidential campaign between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. But interest was at similar levels in September during Obama's first presidential campaign against John McCain. At the time, a New York Times/CBS News poll found 63 percent said they were paying a lot of attention to the campaign.The nationwide poll of 1,022 adults was part of the AmeriSpeak® Omnibus, a monthly multi-client survey using NORC at the University of Chicago's probability-based panel. Interviews were conducted between September 15 and 18, 2016, online and using landlines and cell phones.Three Things You Should Know about The AP-NORC Poll on important issues to Americans: Among All American Adults...Most Americans say the presidential campaign is focusing too much on the candidates' personal characteristics and not enough on their qualifications or the issues that matter most.The issues that matter most to the public overall are health care, Social Security, education, and terrorism, although partisan differences exist in the levels of importance.While most Americans are disappointed in the focus of the campaign, they are interested and paying attention to news about the 2016 presidential election.

Civic Participation

Presidential Debates: What’s Behind the Numbers?

September 19, 2016

Because they attract large audiences, generate interest in the campaign, help voters understand their choices in the upcoming election, forecast governance, increase the likelihood that voters will cast a vote for the preferred candidate rather than against the opponent, moderate some of the campaigns' tendencies to exaggerate and, in a close contest, may affect an election's outcome, presidential debates have become a centerpiece of presidential general elections in the United States.BackgroundAlthough audience data have tracked trends in presidential general election debate viewership over the years, they often fail to reveal how much and how many of the debates people actually watch. More importantly, these figures don't provide insight into why people do or do not watch the debates. Using multiple research methods, this Annenberg Public Policy Center white paper draws on detailed Nielsen viewership data, a national survey, and a set of focus groups with debate viewers to answer these questions.

Campaigns and Elections

Representational Bias in the 2014 Electorate

August 1, 2016

In the latest report, Representational Bias in the 2014 Electorate, Project Vote Research Director LaShonda Brenson, Ph.D., analyzes Census Bureau data to identify who was eligible to vote, who was registered to vote, and who really did vote, in the 2014 midterm election. By comparing rates across several election cycles, it identifies trends in registration and voter turnout according to race, ethnicity, income, age, gender, and a number of other demographic categories, in order to determine where the gaps in representation still exist.

Campaigns and Elections