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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Americans See Skepticism of News Media as Healthy, Say Public Trust in Institutions Can Improve

August 31, 2020

In a year filled with major news stories – from impeachment to a contentious election, from a global pandemic to nationwide protests over racial injustice – Americans continue to have a complicated relationship with the news media. While large swaths of the public often express negative views toward journalists and news organizations, a major Pew Research Center analysis – culminating a yearlong study on Americans' views of the news media – also finds areas where U.S. adults feel more affinity toward the media and express open-mindedness about the possibility that their trust in the industry could improve.

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

The Public, the Political System and American Democracy

April 26, 2018

At a time of growing stress on democracy around the world, Americans generally agree on democratic ideals and values that are important for the United States. But for the most part, they see the country falling well short in living up to these ideals, according to a new study of opinion on the strengths and weaknesses of key aspects of American democracy and the political system. The public's criticisms of the political system run the gamut, from a failure to hold elected officials accountable to a lack of transparency in government. And just a third say the phrase "people agree on basic facts even if they disagree politically" describes this country well today. The perceived shortcomings encompass some of the core elements of American democracy. An overwhelming share of the public (84%) says it is very important that "the rights and freedoms of all people are respected." Yet just 47% say this describes the country very or somewhat well; slightly more (53%) say it does not. Despite these criticisms, most Americans say democracy is working well in the United States – though relatively few say it is working very well. At the same time, there is broad support for making sweeping changes to the political system: 61% say "significant changes" are needed in the fundamental "design and structure" of American government to make it work for current times. The public sends mixed signals about how the American political system should be changed, and no proposals attract bipartisan support. Yet in views of how many of the specific aspects of the political system are working, both Republicans and Democrats express dissatisfaction. To be sure, there are some positives. A sizable majority of Americans (74%) say the military leadership in the U.S. does not publicly support one party over another, and nearly as many (73%) say the phrase "people are free to peacefully protest" describes this country very or somewhat well. In general, however, there is a striking mismatch between the public's goals for American democracy and its views of whether they are being fulfilled. On 23 specific measures assessing democracy, the political system and elections in the United States – each widely regarded by the public as very important – there are only eight on which majorities say the country is doing even somewhat well. The new survey of the public's views of democracy and the political system by Pew Research Center was conducted online Jan. 29-Feb. 13 among 4,656 adults. It was supplemented by a survey conducted March 7-14 among 1,466 adults on landlines and cellphones.

Government

Sharing the News in a Polarized Congress

December 18, 2017

This report describes findings from an analysis of all Facebook posts issued by members of the 114th and 115th Congresses between Jan. 2, 2015, and July 20, 2017. Researchers collected Facebook posts from members' officialFacebookaccounts using the social media platform's application programming interface (API) for public pages.

Government

Americans Divided on Whether Recent Science Protests Will Benefit Scientists' Causes

May 11, 2017

In the wake of April's marches for science and climate in Washington and around the country, Americans are divided in their support of the events' goals and their sense of whether it will make a difference. In particular, a new Pew Research Center survey finds that most Democrats and younger adults are convinced that these public events will help the causes of scientists. By contrast, Republicans and older adults believe the marches will not raise public support for scientists, aid efforts to increase government funding of science, enhance the role of scientists in policy debates or lead to increased efforts to combat global climate change.

Civic Participation

Beyond Distrust: How Americans View their Government

May 3, 2017

Public trust in the government remains near historic lows. Only 18% of Americans today say they can trust the government in Washington to do what is right "just about always" (3%) or "most of the time" (15%).

Government

Most Say Tensions Between Trump Administration and News Media Hinder Access to Political News

April 4, 2017

According to a new Pew Research Center survey, 94% of Americans say they have heard about the current state of the relationship between the Trump administration and the news media. And what they've seen does not reassure them: Large majorities feel the relationship is unhealthy and that the ongoing tensions are impeding Americans' access to important political news. Moreover, both of these concerns are widely shared across nearly all demographic groups, including large majorities of both Democrats and Republicans.

Media

Large Majorities See Checks and Balances, Right to Protest as Essential for Democracy

March 2, 2017

Large majorities of the public, Republicans and Democrats alike, say open and fair elections and a system of governmental checks and balances are essential to maintaining a strong democracy in the United States. However, there is less consensus about the importance of other aspects of a strong democracy -- notably, the freedom of news organizations to criticize political leaders.

Campaigns and Elections; Government

We the People': Five Years of Online Petitions

December 28, 2016

Americans are most likely to petition the White House on health care, veterans' issues, illnesses, immigration, animal rights, holidays and criminal investigations, but the actual impact of petitions was modest and varied.

Civic Participation

Political Polarization & Media Habits

October 21, 2014

When it comes to getting news about politics and government, those with consistent liberal or conservative views have information streams that are distinct from individuals with mixed political views -- and very distinct from each other, according to a report by the Pew Research Center. The MacArthur-supported research examines the media habits of those at the furthest left and right of the political spectrum, who together comprise about 20 percent of the American public. It finds consistent conservatives tend to trust and rely on a single news source more than others: Fox News. Conservatives are also more likely to distrust other news sources, and more likely to have friends who share their own political views. Consistent liberals, by contrast, rely on a greater range of news outlets, tend to trust more news outlets, and are more likely to block someone on a social network -- as well as end a friendship -- because of politics.

Civic Participation; Media

Political Polarization in the American Public: How Increasing Ideological Uniformity and Partisan Antipathy Affect Politics, Compromise and Everyday Life

June 12, 2014

Republicans and Democrats are more divided along ideological lines -- and partisan antipathy is deeper and more extensive -- than at any point in the last two decades, according to a nationwide 10,000-person survey conducted by the Pew Research Center and supported by MacArthur. The survey finds that divisions are greatest among those who are the most engaged and active in the political process and that polarization also affects everyday life.

Civic Participation