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What Foundations Can Learn From New Research on Voting


This article originally appeared in the Chronicle of Philanthropy on September 10, 2018.

By Ellen Alberding, Ari Simon, and Kate Wolford | Executives at Joyce, McKnight, and Kresge

We live in a time of intense divisions and purposeful disinformation that corrodes trust in vital institutions of American democracy. To repair and strengthen our politics and governance, we need a deeper understanding of how Americans view the problems affecting the country and what it will take to build a broader consensus about both the problems and the fixes.

This is no exercise in platonic idealism; it is a practical approach to making government work better for those it serves.

In that spirit, the Joyce, Kresge, and McKnight foundations — all based in the electoral battleground Great Lakes region — are jointly supporting a polling and journalism project to explore Americans’ attitudes about three pillars of a healthy democracy: ease of access to voting, citizen engagement and activism, and commitment to a diverse, multicultural society.

This research, conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, and analyzed in journalistic storytelling by the Atlantic, deeply investigates several key questions: Where are the fault lines in American democracy? What do we do to repair them? How can we strengthen the republic?

What have we learned so far? The initial survey, "The Challenges of Voter Knowledge, Participation, and Polarization," probed Americans’ views about the U.S. electoral system and challenges it faces. Some findings confirm what we already knew: the road to change runs uphill, given the sharp partisan, racial, and ethnic divides that shape how people see problems affecting the U.S. electoral system.

Read the full article here.

For more details on the research, click here.