The world is witnessing the greatest challenge to democracy since the Cold War, and this phenomenon has not spared the United States. Trust in our governing institutions is at an all-time low, while key pillars of democracy are now under attack, from voting rights, to protections for minority religions, to freedom of the press. These attacks raise the question of whether there has been erosion in the public’s faith in democratic institutions, and what can be done to strengthen support for democracy.
To help provide answers, a bi-partisan consortium including Freedom House, the George W. Bush Institute, and the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement commissioned GQR and a Republican polling firm to conduct research of Americans’ attitudes on our democracy and on support for democracy in American foreign policy. The research revealed that Americans strongly support living in a democracy, but they believe it is weak and getting weaker, frustrated in particular by racial divisions and the corrosive influence of money in politics. Messaging strategies that highlight the risks of losing democracy and that appeal to civic engagement are particularly effective in growing support for the democratic system, while messaging that cites specific, non-military success stories increase support for efforts to promote democracy abroad. The Consortium briefed journalists, the Hill, and civic groups to aid efforts in how best to talk about democracy at home and abroad.
GQR carried out a nationally representative survey, and a set of focus groups among key demographic groups.