The Republican Party and Women in Politics

Last summer, as a part of our commitment to promoting a more inclusive democracy, Democracy Fund Voice partnered with Echelon Insights to better understand the views and values that drive Republicans to support or oppose female candidates. To better inform our strategies to support women considering a run for public office, we began by digging in to questions like, “Do Republicans think there is a problem with the number of female Republicans who are elected to office? Why or why not?” and “What remedies, if any, would Republicans support in order to boost the number of Republican women in office?”

Key findings from the research include:

  • Republican leaders vary greatly in their views on candidate recruitment, but most felt it is the role of party leaders to encourage people to become more active in the party.
  • Republican leaders have reservations about women-focused recruitment efforts, and prefer to focus on qualifications for the position rather than differences in identity.
  • Republican voters acknowledge women face unique challenges on the campaign trail.
  • Republican voters see family commitments and attacks from the media as deterrents and key reasons fewer women run or are elected as Republicans.

There were two phases of this research. Phase 1 began with sixteen in-depth interviews of Republican Party leaders across the country during the Summer of 2018. States included AR, AZ, CO, DC, KY, IL, MD, NC, ND, OH, PA, TX, VA, and VT. Phase 2 included both a pre-election and a post-election survey of N = 500 Republican registered voters nationwide. These interviews were conducted via a blend of live phone interviews and online interviews.

Please download a PDF of the pre-election toplines and/or post-election toplines to learn more.

Law Works Education Fund

Type of Activity: Project Grant
Grantee: Law Works Education Fund
Amount: Up to $650,000 in 2018

What is the Law Works Education Fund?

The Law Works Education Fund, a fiscally sponsored project of the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a 501(c)4 social welfare organization, engages bipartisan voices in advocacy and educating the public on the importance of the rule of law, democratic norms, independent law enforcement entities, and the integrity of our legal institutions.

Why do we think this project is a good idea?

Democracy Fund Voice believes that the rule of law, checks and balances, and a strong and trusted judiciary are essential features of our democratic system. The Law Works Education Fund works with partners in the legal, judicial, national security, and law enforcement communities, as well as current and former elected and appointed officials from both sides of the aisle, to communicate the importance of these concepts to the American people.

By mobilizing these champions for the rule of law, Law Works Education Fund is helping defend our institutions within all three branches of government and the foundational system of checks and balances that holds our leaders accountable.

How is Democracy Fund Voice supporting Law Works Education Fund?

Democracy Fund Voice approved a grant to the Law Works Education Fund in the amount of up to $650,000 for 2018.



State of the American Electorate in 2017

This report on the State of the American Electorate in 2017 was commissioned as a part of Voice’s ongoing efforts to better understand the evolving views and values that are driving the American electorate.

Through analysis of both qualitative and quantitative research performed by The Winston Group in May and June of 2017, this report:

  • Uncovers some of the most significant underlying factors that are fueling hyper-partisanship, nativism, racism, distrust of government, and other cultural anxieties among the public;
  • Identifies areas of potential consensus, including shared beliefs, concerns, and desired outcomes that could be leveraged to help overcome our deep divisions; and
  • Raises new questions about conflicting beliefs and values and what those conflicts mean for the future of our government, political parties, and democracy.

The qualitative research part of this project consisted of four focus groups: Republicans, women with children, Independents, and middle-income voters. The quantitative research included an online survey of 1,000 registered voters. Analysis in this report is based on how voters self-identified their ideology on the national survey—including ‘very/somewhat conservative’ voters, ‘moderates’, and ‘very/somewhat liberal’ voters.

Download a PDF of the report: “2017 State of the Electorate”

These findings are by no means definitive answers to the challenges facing our political system, nor do the findings or views expressed in this report reflect those of Democracy Fund Voice.

Democracy Fund Voice remains committed to supporting research that helps leaders from across the political spectrum engage with voters in ways that address underlying anxieties and frustrations and help promote a deeper understanding of an increasingly diverse and divided America.



David Winston is the president of The Winston Group. Winston has been an advisor to Senate and House Republican leadership for the past 15 years and was the Director of Planning for then Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. He advises center-right political parties throughout Europe and was the keynote speaker at the 2012 G8 Presiding Officer summit.

In the business sector, he advises Fortune 100 companies on strategic planning, brand reputation, and public policy issues; he has conducted public policy research for foundations and non-profit organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Congressional Institute. He was also a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation where he specialized in statistical policy analysis and econometric modeling.

Winston has lectured widely including The Wharton of School of Business, MIT, Harvard, and the National War College. His writings have appeared in a variety of publications, including the International Wall Street Journal, Brookings Review, The Brown Journal of World Affairs, and The Washington Post. He is credited for originating the concept of “security mom.”

Winston is currently an election analyst for CBS News and a contributing author to Democracy Fund’s Voter Study Group.


RISE to Vote Campaign

Type of Activity: Project Grant
Grantee: Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE)
Amount: $250,000 in 2018. A previous grant of $200,000 was provided in 2017.

What is RISE to Vote?

RISE to Vote, a project of the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE), is a nonpartisan campaign that partners with sports teams and athletes to harness the unifying power and influence of sports to improve civic engagement in our democracy.

Why do we think this project is important?

The RISE to Vote initiative has established itself as a key component of the civic engagement community. The initiative specializes in educating, empowering and engaging young voters and underrepresented communities. RISE to Vote is increasing registration, as well as developing a narrative that positions athletes as positive, solution-oriented role models. As more athletes are registered and encouraging those who look up to them to follow suit, RISE anticipates opportunities for athletes to lead meaningful discussions on the importance of civic engagement and voting. We believe that having these leaders register, and communicate to their fans and the public how easy it can be to register, will help promote greater visibility and adoption of modern registration systems.

How is Voice supporting RISE to Vote?

In 2018, Democracy Fund Voice approved a grant to the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) of $250,000 to facilitate expansion and coordination of the RISE to Vote project. A previous grant of $200,000 was made in 2017.

United to Protect Democracy

Type of Activity: Grant
Grantee: United to Protect Democracy
Amount: $200,000 in 2017 over two years

What is United to Protect Democracy?

United to Protect Democracy is a new organization working to preserve constitutional checks and balances, and hold the Executive Branch accountable for ethical violations and abuses of power. It advances its mission through advocacy, lobbying, and public interest litigation.

Why do we think this organization is important?

United to Protect Democracy’s priorities focus on areas that pose the most significant threats to democracy, such as preventing the politicization of independent institutions and maintaining the constitutional balance of powers among the executive branch, Congress, judiciary, and the individual states.

How is Voice supporting United to Protect Democracy?

In 2017, Democracy Fund Voice approved a two-year grant to United to Protect Democracy in the amount of up to $200,000.

American Institutions Network

Type of Activity: Grant
Grantee:  R Street Institute
Amount: Up to $320,000 over two years

What is the American Institutions Network?

The American Institutions Network project, based at the R Street Institute, is an ideologically diverse network of civil society organizations and individuals committed to strengthening our constitutional system of checks and balances.

Why do we think this project is important?

The American Institutions Network has the potential to be a key element in civil society’s response to constitutional crises that may arise. As a bipartisan network of organizations and individuals, it will be well-situated to come together to educate Congress and the public about threats that may be posed to our system of checks and balances.

How is Voice supporting the American Institutions Network?

Democracy Fund Voice approved a two-year grant to R Street Institute of up to $320,000 for 2017-2018 to facilitate expansion and coordination of the American Institutions Network.

GeoElections Project: Geographic Technology for Better Elections

Type of Activity: Project Grant
Grantee: National States Geographic Information Council 
Amount: $300,000 in 2017 over two years.

What is the GeoElections Project?

The GeoElections Project, lead by the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC), aims to improve geographic technology for better elections. The effort will tap state-level geospatial information officers, election directors, and other subject matter experts to champion the use of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) map technology. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are technologically advanced computer systems that use data to describe the earth’s surface and analyze the relationships between locations. Digital map representations of precinct boundaries are more transparent and easier to use for election administrative purposes. For this project, NSGIC will develop and promote best practices for replacing the current ‘street file’, a catalog of voter precinct assignments that requires correct addresses to be updated.

Why do we think this project is a good idea?

Democracy Fund Voice supports NSGIC’s efforts to facilitate the adoption of geographic information systems and related processes to enhance elections management and citizen engagement across the United States. By funding their project, we will be able to positively increase the quality of election administration for voters, candidates, and electoral management staff across the U.S. By providing additional states and localities with the information they require to utilize mapping technology, we believe this will lead to more accurate and accessible electoral databases and further innovate elections management best practices.

How is Voice supporting the project?

Democracy Fund Voice approved a grant to the National States Geographic Information Council in the amount of up to $300,000 over two years to facilitate the adoption of geographic information systems and related processes to enhance elections management and citizen engagement across the United States.

Stand Up Republic

Type of Activity: General Operating Support
Grantee: Stand Up Republic
Amount: Up to $475,000 in 2018; up to $550,000 in 2017

What is Stand Up Republic?

Stand Up Republic is an organization founded by Evan McMullin and Mindy Finn to usher in a new era of civic engagement to defend democratic institutions and ideals in America. The organization seeks to build and organize a grassroots movement in defense of liberty, equality, and truth in America while upholding the Constitution and defending the democratic norms and institutions upon which the protection of our basic rights depend.

Why do we think this organization is important?

This organization is confronting and engaging in important work to protect the norms of our democracy and to push back against dangerous demagoguery in our politics.

Organization projects include promoting dialogue to guarantee a more inclusive America, executive oversight (particularly related to Article I), First Amendment protections, and individual rights. By supporting Stand Up Republic we support efforts to empower individuals to stand for their principles and for preserving our republic. Stand Up Republic seeks to achieve its mission through creative education, leadership development, national movement building, and advocacy.

How is Democracy Fund Voice supporting Stand Up Republic?

Democracy Fund Voice approved a grant to Stand Up Republic in the amount of up to $550,000 in 2017. In 2018, Democracy Fund Voice renewed the grant to Stand Up Republic for up to $475,000.

Stranger in My Own Country

The tone and tenor of the 2016 election and the increasingly charged ideological debate in the United States have left many Americans feeling disconnected and disoriented. To bring our country together and move beyond divisive rhetoric, we need to better understand the anxieties that people are experiencing. Stranger in my Own Country is the first in a series of studies seeking to better understand the factors that are motivating nativism, racism, and other cultural anxieties among the American electorate.

The findings in this study are the product of in-depth interviews, a national public opinion survey, and message testing carried out by a group of Republican-led researchers in the fall of 2016 as a part of an effort to better understand the attitudes driving the behavior of supporters of Donald Trump.

Our preliminary findings revealed deep cultural anxiety around four themes:

  1. Americanism: Fear of losing core, defining values that make America unique.
  2. Race: Fear that demographic change is weakening community ties and excluding people.
  3. Immigration: Fear of losing control of our borders and endangering ourselves.
  4. Islam: Fear of letting people into the country who are hostile to America.

Our findings suggest that the recent rise in populism and nativism among voters is driven by feelings of disaffection and alienation from America’s core institutions and culture. These voters feel disconnected from government, community, and a “new” America they aren’t comfortable with. However, the research offers hope that targeted messages on pride and unity in America can create significant movement in key attitudes among these voters that may help fewer Americans feel like strangers in their own country.

Please view our slideshow below, download a PDF of the presentation, or check out our fact sheet on key findings.

Our research team included:

  • PROJECT LEAD: Mindy Finn, Civic entrepreneur, former strategist for the RNC, NRSC, Mitt Romney, and George W. Bush;
  • RESEARCH LEAD: Alex Lundry, co-founder and Chief Data Scientist at Deep Root Analytics, and ran analytics for Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush;
  • PROJECT ASSOCIATE: Kelsey Jarrett, former member of the Google+ Political Partnerships Team, former digital strategist for the NRSC and the RNC;
  • RESEARCHERS: Lisa Dropkin, Stacia Tipton and Karen Emmerson at Edge Research; Patrick Ruffini and Kristen Soltis Anderson at Echelon Insights; and Emily Ekins at the Cato Institute

The initial findings described here are the product of three pieces of research focused on the attitudes of strong supporters of now President Donald Trump during the 2016 election cycle. First, hour-long, in-depth interviews were conducted by Edge Research with voters in North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Then, a national survey was conducted by Echelon Insights that oversampled whites without a college degree was used to quantify attitudes observed in the earlier interviews. Finally, researchers from the Cato Institute tested how voters respond to digital and print media to see what kinds of messages could impact attitudes towards Muslim Americans.

The results conveyed in this presentation are by no means definitive, but rather the first step in our effort to understand the current positions of the electorate. Over the coming months, Democracy Fund Voice will continue to ask difficult questions and support the efforts of researchers and leaders across the political spectrum to engage with voters in ways that address underlying anxieties, frustrations, and concerns, resulting in greater unity and understanding among an increasingly diverse America.

Advocacy for Good Governance

Type of Activity: Advocacy Grant.
Grantee: Bipartisan Policy Center Advocacy Network, Inc.
Amount: $415,000 in 2017 over two years. $150,000 in 2016.

What is the Commission on Political Reform?

The Commission on Political Reform was launched by the sister organization of the Bipartisan Policy Center Advocacy Network (the Bipartisan Policy Center) in 2013 to investigate the causes and consequences of America’s partisan political divide and to advocate for specific reforms that will improve the political process in a polarized atmosphere. The Commission proposed 24 recommendations to strengthen the electoral process, the process by which Congress legislates and manages its own affairs, and the ability of Americans to plug into the nation’s civic life through public service.  These reforms and solutions, championed by both ends of the political spectrum, include reinvigorating the central role of the congressional committee and reestablishing bipartisan interpersonal contact.

Why do we think this is a good idea?

We believe that bringing together a coalition of organizations to support bipartisan political reform can increase the likelihood and the impact of those reforms. BPCAN is uniquely positioned to develop and implement a strategy for this work because of its powerful voice in congressional bipartisan policy. They will promote an ongoing conversation about how to overcome political divides and make our government work better.

How is DFV supporting BPCAN?

In 2017, Democracy Fund Voice approved a two year grant to the Bipartisan Policy Center Advocacy Network in the amount of $415,000 to facilitate coordination with other organizations advocating for recommendations of the Commission on Political Reform and other congressional reforms. A previous grant of $150,000 was made in 2016.