Select Committee Announces Key Modernization Recommendations

Democracy Fund Voice congratulates Chair Kilmer, Vice Chair Graves, and members of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress on the release of their final round of recommendations. These 40 recommendations offer practical solutions for urgent challenges facing Congress both as a workplace and as an institution of our democracy. Most importantly, the recommendations chart a clear path for Congress to reassert its Article One constitutional authority and better serve the American people.

We applaud the collaborative spirit with which the committee has conducted its work, leading to a total of 97 unanimous, bipartisan recommendations. Democracy Fund Voice urges the House to consider these critical reform measures before the close of the 117th Congress. Echoing the words of Chair Kilmer, it is time to “turn recommendations into results.”

— Lara Flint, Governance Program Director, Democracy Fund Voice

2019 Research on Perspectives About Diversity and the Conservative Movement

As a part of our commitment to promoting a healthy, diverse, and resilient democracy, Democracy Fund Voice partnered with Echelon Insights to better understand the views and values that drive Republicans to meaningfully engage in conversations about pluralism and the future of America. The project aimed to answer an urgent question: do conservatives believe in a conservative movement as diverse as our nation?

The political right skews whiter, older, and more male at a time when America is becoming more diverse and younger. It is critical to unpack how those on the right think about and can meaningfully discuss “diversity” within their own political family. With a rapid increase of bigoted rhetoric in public discussions towards immigrants, Muslim Americans, and people of color, understanding how conservative political leaders view diversity is especially vital. A shocking number of policymakers and government officials have failed to speak out against such rhetoric, and the number of those who have agreed or encouraged prejudiced views is more disturbing still.

Yet, the findings of the study indicate a majority of Republicans consider increased diversity within their party valuable.

It should be noted that several answers showed discrepancies between the views of white Republicans and African-American or Hispanic Republicans. White Republicans generally viewed the issue of diversity to be of lower priority, and expressed lower support for policies benefitting minority groups, than African-American or Hispanic Republicans.

Key findings from the research include:

  • Republicans do not generally oppose increasing diversity within the party, and believe it is in line with their values as a movement, but it is not a high priority.
  • Republicans see the value of diversity within organizations, and are willing to believe that one’s race is one factor that influences an individual’s worldview and perspective.
  • Republicans generally say they are comfortable having conversations about race, but acknowledge they are less comfortable discussing race with people who do not share their race. They believe boosting diversity in the party will make it easier to connect to more people.

The methodology for this research included:

In-depth interviews with GOP and conservative leaders (April and May 2019)

QualBoards of white, African-American, and Latino conservatives (April 2019)

Survey of N = 1000 Republican Voters Nationwide with over-samples to achieve N = 250 Hispanic/Latino and N = 250 African American Republican Voters (conducted online via Dynata panel, May 9 – May 14, 2019)

The full summary and key findings can be found here.

Congress Makes Important First Step on Election Security

The follow statement can be attributed to Adam Ambrogi, Democracy Fund Voice Elections Program Director:

“We want to applaud Congress on taking this crucial step forward to help the states defend themselves against cyber threats by investing $380 million in the Elections Assistance Commission. Everyone should be concerned with the meaningful threats to our registration system that emerged in the 2016 elections. While it’s clear that more needs to be done by federal, state, and local governments to identify and rebuff threats to the voting system, the proposed federal funding is an important step that recognizes Congress’s role in supporting elections. This legislation makes clear that the funding should be prioritized towards securing election websites and registration systems, replacing paperless voting machines, promoting election audits, training election officials on how to respond to these threats, and on other election security best practices. States now have some important choices, and we know election officials will work hard to prioritize funding towards the greatest threats to the system. Because the money needs to be distributed quickly, it makes sense that Congress allowed for expedited grantmaking. That said, states should work quickly to develop a public process to ensure the funds are used wisely. We support the Election Assistance Commission in their role as liaison to disperse the funds to the states and to ensure that state and local officials are full partners in this process.

Senators Klobuchar and Lankford have worked incredibly hard on this tough policy issue and deserve to be commended on their leadership. They were joined in this important effort by Senators Graham and Harris. The Senate Intelligence Committee’s important investigatory work also contributed to public understanding of this effort, thanks to the work of Senators Burr and Warner. We’d like to thank House and Senate leadership, as well as Democratic Leader Schumer — who has been a steadfast champion on issues pertaining to election administration — in particular. Without the work of the Appropriation Committees and their staff, the funding would also not be part of the final package. In the future, we believe that it’s important to have public hearings on these threats along with policy opportunities in the Senate Rules and House Administration Committees, and we call on the leadership of those committees to have hearings sooner rather than later. There is a real need for stronger relationships and communications in the field; we are encouraged at this bipartisan progress and would love to see more work accomplished.

Many leaders and organizations — including Democracy Fund Voice — have worked tirelessly to prioritize funding for the states to deal with this new threat to our democracy. We are proud to have played a small part in ensuring that these resources have started to flow to the states. We would like to see this be the first, but not the last, major investment in helping states solve this complex issue. Voters need to know that they are supported by expanded resources and that experts and officials are working hard to protect them. Election officials have ramped up their focus on this issue since the 2016 election — but thanks to this funding, they now have much greater capacity to support their voters.”

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New Research Offers Insights into the Rise of Populism and Nativism in America

Republican-Led Research Team Finds Opportunities to Build Trust Despite Trump Voters’ Deep Cultural Anxieties

Washington – New research from a Republican-led group of researchers at Democracy Fund Voice found 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. However, the research offers hope that exposure to messages on pride and unity in America can create significant movement in key attitudes among these voters.

These preliminary findings are the product of in-depth interviews, a national public opinion poll, and message testing carried out this fall to understand the attitudes driving the behavior of supporters of Donald Trump.

“This year’s unique election and charged ideological environment demands unique research to better understand how to navigate the post-2016 political world,” said Alex Lundry of Deep Root Analytics, director of the research team, and former Director of Data Science for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign and Chief Analytics Officer for Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential campaign. “This research offers a comprehensive first look at two of the most powerful emergent political forces of this year: 21st century American populism and nativism. Our multifaceted research methodology digs deep into these phenomena and is a must read for anyone wanting to better understand what happened this November and what’s next.”

Indeed, the findings revealed a deeply divided and concerned electorate. Through in-depth, one-on-one interviews, the study found that many white, Republican voters supporting Donald Trump feel like strangers in their own country – quieted and shut-out by a fast-evolving American culture. Similarly, a national survey showed how 64% of Republicans supporting Trump in the primary, and 53% of all Americans, feel that our society is changing so fast that it can be difficult to keep up.

These voters feel alienated from government, community, and a “new” America they aren’t comfortable with. The interviews in Pennsylvania and North Carolina in August and September of 2016, respectively, 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.

The national survey conducted by Echelon Insights showed that ideals of a melting pot and the American Dream are still prevalent, but are being tested by the current climate. Specifically, voters expressed great concerns about the assimilation of immigrants, including their beliefs and value systems. When asked about the requirements for being a good American, 65% of respondents said belief in personal freedom, 65% said speaking English, and 61% said patriotism. However, 59% of Trump supporters do not believe immigrants are willing to assimilate.

Across party, class, education, and income, voters also expressed anxiety in their perceptions of Muslim Americans. Troublingly, many voters view Muslim Americans as a threat to voters’ personal values and lifestyles in a way that is distinct from other concerns about racial tensions. Twenty-eight percent of all voters agree Islam is compatible with American values, while 43% disagree, and only 13% of Republicans supporting Trump in the primary agree Islam is compatible with American values, while 73% disagree.

“Our country has experienced unprecedented changes in recent years that have left many Americans feeling disconnected and disoriented,” said Joe Goldman, President of Democracy Fund Voice. “If we are going to bring our country together and move beyond the divisive rhetoric that we saw in 2016, we need to understand the anxieties that people are experiencing, and find ways to open up a constructive dialogue. While these fears run deep, the findings of this research should give us a reason to be optimistic for the future.”

Researchers from the Cato Institute showed that certain messages generated significant movement on key attitudes about Muslim Americans, the group least familiar to respondents. Media experiments, including video ads, banner ads, and opinion pieces, were able to persuade people to exhibit greater acceptance of Muslims, according to an online survey of 6,700 respondents. Notably, participants were persuaded after hearing Muslims share firsthand accounts of their daily life experiences and learned about their pride in being Americans.

One video in particular depicting young Muslim Americans reacting to hateful comments on social media increased favorability of Muslims from 34% in the control group to 52% in the treatment group. Among strong Trump supporters, respondents who rated Trump more than 80 on an 100-point scale, favorable opinions increased from 11% to 38%.

“With this initial research and in future work, we hope to identify opportunities to build trust and unity in America,” said Mindy Finn, a member of the research team and former RNC Chief Digital Strategist and Senior Advisor to the NRSC. “We’re encouraged that despite today’s cultural anxiety, Right and Left alike share common core values and embrace the ideal of Americans of all backgrounds living in harmony.”

Democracy Fund Voice will publish expanded results in the future. Research was conducted by Echelon Insights, Edge Research, and the Cato Institute.

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Democracy Fund Voice is a nonpartisan organization, created by eBay founder and philanthropist Pierre Omidyar, dedicated to helping America build a stronger, healthier democracy. For more information, contact Lauren Strayer by calling 202-420-7928 or by emailing lstrayer@democracyfundvoice.org.