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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Lessons Learned From the 2020 Election

September 23, 2021

The 2020 primaries and presidential election took place against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, which necessitated changes to how states planned and held their elections, and how they protected voters, poll workers, and administrators.From political and institutional battles over procedural changes, to record-high turnout levels, administering elections in 2020 proved to be a series of anticipated — and unanticipated — challenges. Surges in voting by mail meant many states were breaking new ground; maintaining access to in-person voting also proved uniquely challenging during a global pandemic. Our new report looks at how well the challenges of 2020 were met, from the first primary election to the last vote counted. It also examines the technologies employed, the costs involved in running elections, and the confidence voters ultimately had in the results.

Campaigns and Elections

The Humble Members of Society": Understanding Populism in the United States

June 1, 2018

This report traces the antiestablishment roots of populism, arguing that it is a manifestation of the principal problem inherent to representative government. In the Anglo-American political universe, it first appeared in the early 18th century in the ways the Country Whigs modified the English Commonwealth tradition to attack the economic policies of Robert Walpole. Migrating to America after the Seven Years' War, it manifested itself in the Anti-Federalist opposition to the Constitution, Jeffersonian complaints about Hamiltonian economics, and Jacksonian democracy. In all these instances, populist antiestablishment sentiment envisioned a kind of conspiracy of the wealthy, well-born, and connected to hijack republican government, denying the rightful rule of the people and ensconcing the elite in permanent power. As industrial capitalism facilitated vast inequalities of wealth and power, the ancient anxieties have been notably persistent—such as the agrarian Populists and Bull Moose Progressives, the George Wallace phenomenon, and finally the tea party and Trump movement. While the complaints of each faction are different in the specifics, the underlying grievance, that the privileged few have interfered with the connection between the people and their elected leaders, has been notably consistent.

Campaigns and Elections; Civic Participation; Government

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

Charter Schools as Nation Builders: Democracy Prep and Civic Education

January 16, 2013

This policy brief is the first in a series of in-depth case studies exploring how top-performing charter schools have incorporated civic learning in their school curriculum and school culture. For more information about AEI's Program on American Citizenship.

Civic Participation