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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Competing Visions of America: An Evolving Identity or a Culture Under Attack?

November 1, 2021

This report highlights findings from the 2021 American Values Survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institue (PRRI). The suvey asked participants of varying political leanings to describe their opionions on subjects ranging from Democracy to race and ethnicity to religion and many other aspects of American society in the 21st century.

The American Public Views the Spread of Misinformation as a Major Problem

October 8, 2021

This brief outlines the findings of a poll conducted by the Pearson Institute/AP-NORC between September 9-13, 2021. The research sought to determine the American public's views on the spread of misinformation and who should be held accountable.

Media

Charting Congress on Social Media in the 2016 and 2020 Elections

September 30, 2021

This report examines how lawmakers used social media in the months surrounding the 2016 and 2020 elections. To conduct this analysis, Pew Research Center collected every Facebook post and tweet created by every voting member of Congress between Sept. 8-Dec. 8, 2016, and Sept. 3-Dec. 3, 2020. The analysis includes official, campaign and personal accounts. The resulting dataset contains nearly 166,000 Facebook posts from 1,408 congressional Facebook accounts and more than 357,000 tweets from 1,438 congressional Twitter accounts. These steps are described in greater detail in the methodology.

Campaigns and Elections; Media

America’s Hidden Common Ground on Renewing Democracy

July 19, 2021

This Public Agenda/USA TODAY Hidden Common Ground survey, which is also part of Public Agenda's ongoing series of Yankelovich Democracy Monitor surveys, was fielded in May 2021. The research updates and expands on findings from Public Agenda's two previous Yankelovich Democracy Monitor surveys, published in 2019 and 2020. The report concludes with reflections on the findings and implications for moving towards a less divisive, more collaborative, and healthier democracy.

Government

Crisis of Confidence: How Election 2020 Was Different

June 24, 2021

This report examines new data from Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape and the Democracy Fund VOTER Survey (Views of the Electorate Research Survey) to better understand voter confidence in the 2020 presidential election. The data suggest that voter confidence in the 2020 election was indeed different — and that continued doubts about election integrity among many Republicans raise concerns about the future.

Campaigns and Elections; Civic Participation

Theft Perception: Examining the Views of Americans Who Believe the 2020 Election was Stolen

June 3, 2021

This report utilizes survey data to better understand the viewpoints of Americans who believe the 2020 presidential election was stolen. The September and November 2020 VOTER Surveys (Views of the Electorate Research Survey) was conducted in partnership with the survey firm YouGov. In total, 5,900 adults (age 18 and up) took the survey online between August 28, 2020 and September 28, 2020. Of those 5,900 respondents, 4,943 were reinterviewed after the election between November 13, 2020 and December 7, 2020. Many of these respondents were long-term panelists originally interviewed by YouGov in 2011-2012 as part of the Cooperative Campaign Analysis Project (CCAP) and then again in the December 2016 VOTER Survey. In total, 3,750 of these long-term panelists participated in the September 2020 wave and 3,340 participated in the November 2020 wave. 

Campaigns and Elections; Civic Participation

The 100 Million Project: The Untold Story of American Non-Voters

February 19, 2020

In 2016, nearly 100 million eligible Americans did not cast a vote for president, representing 43% of the eligible voting-age population. They represent a sizeable minority whose voice is not heard in our representative democracy. Most of our attention, in politics and in research, tends to fall almost exclusively on "likely" voters perceived to make the most difference in the outcome. As a result, relatively little is known about those with a history of non-voting. Yet their non-participation is a key feature of our democracy, and raises important questions about the basic health of a participatory society.To help understand this large segment of the population, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation commissioned Bendixen & Amandi International to develop a comprehensive study of those who do not vote. This study surveyed 12,000 chronic non-voters nationally and in 10 swing states, soliciting their views, attitudes and behaviors on a wide range of topics. For comparison purposes, a group of 1,000 active voters who consistently participate in national elections and a group of 1,000 young eligible voters (18-24 years old) were also surveyed. Findings were further explored through in-depth conversations with non-voters in focus groups held around the country.

Campaigns and Elections

Putting a Price Tag on Local News: Americans’ Perceptions of the Value and Financial Future of Local News

November 17, 2019

A crisis faces local newsrooms across the nation. News publishers have, for over a decade, competed with search engines and digital platforms, not only for their readers' attention, but also for advertising revenue. At the same time, we have seen decades of growing distrust and partisan antipathy toward institutions of all kinds, including journalism. Local newspapers are especially vulnerable to these trends. As a result, there have been waves of consolidation, often resulting in fewer newsroom jobs. Particularly controversial have been acquisitions of newspapers by private equity investors, often followed by debate about how the newsroom is managed by its new ownership.This Gallup/Knight Foundation study seeks to better understand whether Americans care about the fate of local news organizations, what they value about these organizations and what could be done to make more of these organizations financially sustainable. The results are sobering, but they also point toward potential solutions for addressing some of the economic challenges facing many local news organizations.

Media

Strengthening Democracy: What Do Americans Think?

August 23, 2019

Nearly every day, Americans are confronted with evidence that our politics are broken and our democracy is not working as it should. So what do Americans think we should do to improve our politics and renew our democracy? This is the question that Public Agenda, in partnership with the Kettering Foundation, is exploring in the Yankelovich Democracy Monitor.This report summarizes findings from the first Yankelovich Democracy Monitor, a nationally representative survey of 1,000 American adults 18 and older. The survey was fielded from September 14 through October 15, 2018, by telephone, including cell phones, and online. Respondents completed the survey in English. Before developing the survey instrument, Public Agenda conducted three demographically diverse focus groups with adults 18 and older in July 2018 in Hicksville, New York; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; and Earth City, Missouri. In total, 31 adults participated in these focus groups.

Government

Young Adults' News Behaviors and Beliefs

July 9, 2019

This report examines trust in media, showing that many young adults use news media to make decisions on policies and voting. It reveals that a majority of young adults are concerned about the impact of news on democracy and unity in the country, expressing that news organizations might divide and polarize citizens. Conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, the report analyzes the findings of a survey of 1,660 adults between the ages of 18 and 34. It also surveyed large samples of African American and Hispanic participants to explore beliefs and behaviors across races and ethnicities. The study shows that young people believe some news sources are actively hurting democracy and corroding national unity. Sixty-four percent of young adults say their least-liked news source hurts democracy and 73 percent say their least-liked news source divides the country. Only 47 percent say their favorite news source helps unite it. When comparing partisan attitudes, 51 percent of Democrats say their favorite source unites the public, while 42 percent of Republicans say the same. 

Media

Engaging New Voters: If Nonprofits Don’t, Who Will?

May 30, 2019

One of the most compelling questions asked after every election year is "what will it take to get young voters to head to the polls?" Every year is an important year for voters. Which means every year the important question to ask is, how do we ensure the most eligible citizens turn out to vote?Nonprofit VOTE's updated "Engaging New Voters" report tackles that question and proposes a simple but hard-fought answer: "contact." The report looks at 64 nonprofits across six states who reached out into the communities they serve via nonpartisan voter engagement activities and found amazing results:Voters contacted by nonprofits are TWICE as likely to be nonwhite, TWICE as likely to be under 25 and TWICE as likely to have $30,000 in household income. These voters were also MORE likely to vote – 11 percentage points more likely. Asian, Latino and Black voters contacted by nonprofits show up 13-16 percentage points higher than those who weren't; those under 25 turned out 20 percentage points higher.

Campaigns and Elections

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.