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Democracy In America: An Interdisciplinary Exploration Of How To Strengthen Democracy

April 24, 2023
5:30 pm
- 7:00 pm



Sanford School of Public Policy
201 Science Dr
Durham, NC 27708 United States
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Event Sponsored By

Polis: Center for Politics
Duke University Bass Connections

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Democracy in America audience Q&A

Does access to reliable news drive citizen engagement in our democracy? What role can clergy play in facilitating civil discourse and bridging the partisan divide? How do we evaluate the fairness and integrity of the electoral systems in all 50 U.S. States?

Polis hosted a discussion with students and faculty from three Bass Connections projects that have spent the year exploring democracy in America. Teams shared key research findings and their thoughts on what citizens and policymakers can do to strengthen democratic systems for the future.

Project Teams

Measuring Democracy in America

Photo of Measuring Democracy in America teamThis team measured inequality in democracy across U.S. states by analyzing disparities in voter turnout for each of four different demographic categories: race, disability status, age, and educational attainment. To roughly identify the best and worst performing states from a quantitative perspective, the calculated differences in 2020 turnout between advantaged and disadvantaged groups in each of our four metrics. To further strengthen their results, team members modeled a series of logistic regressions using weighted survey data across the six most recent election cycles.

Faculty Facilitator: David Schanzer, Sanford School of Public Policy

Student Presenters: James Gao, Eric Gim, Mac Hoeve, and Karam Oubari


Politics and Polarization in Mainline Protestant Congregations

Photo of Politics and Polarization in Mainline Protestant Congregations presentersThis team examined whether and how political polarization has impacted Mainline Protestant clergy and congregations since the onset of COVID-19. Using three different methodological approaches and sources of data (sermons, interview, and survey data), the team has deepened our understanding of the impact polarization is having on clergy well-being as well, on the divergent ways clergy think about the relationship between politics and religion, and on the extent to which clergy discuss salient political and social issues from the pulpit.

Faculty Facilitator: Erin Johnston, Arts & Sciences – Sociology

Student Presenters: Oliver Hess, David King, Sejal Mayer-Patel, Trent Ollerenshaw, and Haley Toresdahl


Social Provision of Information for Effective Democratic Citizens

Photo of Social Provision of Information for Effective Democratic Citizens teamThis team studied the effects of news consumption and media literacy on democracy and political activity through a variety of studies. Team members explored media literacy legislation, conducted focus groups with local voters about their news consumption, facilitated an experiment regarding local news consumption and paywalls, and constructed a funding model to represent costs for local journalism. The team concluded that many states are engaging with creating media literacy legislation and that local voters have decreased interest in local news for a variety of content and finance related issues.

Faculty Facilitator: Stephen Buckley, Sanford School of Public Policy

Student Presenters: Pranav Athimuthu, Leah Boyd, Annaleise Linkenhoker, and Kaylee Rodriguez