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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Clean Slate for Worker Power: Building a Just Economy and Democracy

January 22, 2020

Across our entire history, access to economic and political power has been unforgivably shaped by racial and gender discrimination, as well as by discrimination based on immigration status, by sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination, and by ableism. And, truth be told, the American labor movement has itself often failed to insist upon a genuinely inclusive and equitable America.What we need, then, is a new labor law that is capable of empowering all workers to demand a truly equitable American democracy and a genuinely equitable American economy. This report contains many recommendations for how to construct such a labor law, but all of the recommendations are geared toward achieving this overarching goal. In fact, while the policy recommendations are detailed and at times complex, the theory of Clean Slate is simple: When labor law enables working people to build organizations of countervailing power, the people can demand for themselves a more equitable nation.

Civic Participation

Major Internet Companies as News Editors

August 15, 2018

As part of its ongoing Trust, Media and Democracy initiative, the John S. and James L.Knight Foundation partnered with Gallup to ask a representative sample of U.S. adults for their views on the news editorial functions played by major internet companies. 

Media

Distinguishing Between Factual and Opinion Statements in the News

June 18, 2018

In today's fast-paced and complex information environment, news consumers must make rapid-fire judgments about how to internalize news-related statements – statements that often come in snippets and through pathways that provide little context. A new Pew Research Center survey of 5,035 U.S. adults examines a basic step in that process: whether members of the public can recognize news as factual – something that's capable of being proved or disproved by objective evidence – or as an opinion that reflects the beliefs and values of whoever expressed it.

Media

Improving the Voter Experience: Reducing Polling Place Wait Times by Measuring Lines and Managing Polling Place Resources

April 1, 2018

Long lines at the polls can undermine the voting experience, even to the point of discouraging people from voting. Reducing polling place wait times by measuring lines and managing polling place resources can improve the voting experience.

Campaigns and Elections; Government

American Views: Trust, Media and Democracy

January 16, 2018

Technological advances have made it easier for Americans to connect with each other and to find information, including details about the major issues facing the country. But those advances present both challenges and opportunities for individuals and U.S. institutions. Not only is more information readily available, but so is more misinformation, and many consumers may not be able to easily discern the difference between the two.Amid the changing informational landscape, media trust in the U.S. has been eroding, making it harder for the news media to fulfill their democratic responsibilities of informing the public and holding government leaders accountable. Results of the 2017 Gallup/Knight Foundation Survey on Trust, Media and Democracy show that most Americans believe it is now harder to be well-informed and to determine which news is accurate. They increasingly perceive the media as biased and struggle to identify objective news sources. They believe the media continue to have a critical role in our democracy but are not very positive about how the media are fulfilling that role.The research reported here is based on a nationally representative mail survey of more than 19,000 U.S. adults aged 18 and older. This project received support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Open Society Foundations.

Civic Participation; Media

Election Integrity: A Pro-Voter Agenda

February 1, 2017

President Trump recently claimed millions voted illegally in the 2016 election, and called for a "major investigation" into fraud in our election system. His remarks come after years of battles in the states over voting laws that make it harder for many citizens to participate in our elections. Yet the clamor over voter suppression should not obscure a fundamental shared truth: American elections should be secure and free of misconduct. This paper outlines a six-part agenda to target fraud risks as they actually exist -- without unduly disenfranchising eligible citizens.

Campaigns and Elections

Engaging New Voters: The Impact of Nonprofit Voter Outreach on Client and Community Turnout

January 4, 2016

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?" This year, we are releasing an important update to our Engaging New Voters report that aims to answer that question. Working with over 120 nonprofit partners across nine states, we examined the trends of nearly 5,000 young voters (those under 30) and found some striking results. Most importantly, we found that voter turnout among the young voters contacted by nonprofits was 5.7 points HIGHER than comparable young voters in the study area. And these results were seen across race and gender, with young women showing the biggest gain of 6.5 points, Additionally, we found the efforts of nonprofits to reach communities often overlooked in the political conversation WERE being realized -- as we saw contacts being twice as likely to be Latino and 1.6 times likely to be Black.

Campaigns and Elections

Election Day Long Lines: Resource Allocation

September 17, 2014

Precincts with fewer poll workers and voting machines and more minorities experienced longer voting lines in the 2012 presidential election, according to a study by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU, a MacArthur grantee. The study, Election Day Long Lines: Resource Allocation, provides an in-depth look at the relationships between resource distribution, race, and the length of voting lines in Florida, Maryland, and South Carolina. The 10 South Carolina precincts with the longest wait times had, on average, 64 percent registered black voters, compared to 27 percent across the state. The 10 Maryland precincts with the fewest voting machines per voter had, on average, 19 percent Latino voting age citizens, compared to 7 percent across the state. The study also found many precincts did not comply with state requirements for allocating voting resources.

Campaigns and Elections

Can Nonprofits Increase Voting Among Their Clients,Constituents, and Staff? An Evaluation of the Track the Vote Program, Part 2: Case Studies

September 1, 2013

Twenty-five of the 94 Track the Vote program participants were selected for interviews, as well as two additional agencies that participated in similar voter engagement programs managed by Nonprofit VOTE partners.Fifteen of those interviews became the basis for the following case studies, designed to illustrate how a diverse group of nonprofi t organizations conducted voter engagement in 2012. Each case study includes descriptions of voter outreach activities, challenges that arose, and concrete takeaways from their experiences.

Campaigns and Elections; Civic Participation

Can Nonprofits Increase Voting Among Their Clients,Constituents, and Staff? An Evaluation of the Track the Vote Program, Part 1

July 1, 2013

The Track the Vote program sought to answer questions about the effectiveness of nonprofit service providers in promoting voter participation within their regular services and programs, and their potential for increasing voter turnout among nonprofit clients and constituents. To do so, the program tracked 33,741 individuals who registered to vote or signed a pledge to vote at 94 nonprofits. The nonprofits included a diverse set of community health centers, family service agencies, multi-service organizations, and community development groups across seven states.Using demographic and voting history data, we were able to determine whom the nonprofits reached and at what rate contacted voters turned out to vote in the 2012 general election, as compared to all registered voters in the seven states involved. The results showed the impact of personal voter outreach by nonprofit service providers in raising turnout rates among those least expected to vote and in closing gaps in voter participation across all demographics.To complement the voter turnout information, we conducted standardized interviews with 27 of the participating nonprofits to learn more about the capacity issues they faced and the tactics they used to engage voters. Fifteen of those interviews were turned into case studies, contained in Part II of this report.

Campaigns and Elections

Voting Law Changes in 2012

October 3, 2011

Analyzes trends in state legislation that make voter registration and voting difficult, including requiring proof of citizenship, eliminating same-day registration, restricting early and absentee voting, and stricter rules for restoring voting rights.

Campaigns and Elections; Government

Community Strength and Economic Challenge: Civic Attitudes and Community Involvement in Rural America

June 7, 2011

In any given year, close to one in three Americans volunteer with a local organization and get involved in various activities that benefit their community. Community leaders and policy makers are interested in levels of community engagement because there is a presumption that a community's civic health can translate into community wealth as a result of local residents working together to improve their community's economic sustainability and quality of life. Although rural Americans are slightly more likely than urban and suburban residents to participate in community activities, not all rural communities demonstrate a similarly high level of community trust and engagement.

Civic Participation