In the inaugural Democracy Renewal Project grantmaking cycle, Public Agenda seeks to support this movement to renew democracy with evidence on how to achieve full access to electoral participation for all citizens while strengthening trust and confidence in elections.
Donor Name: Public Agenda
State: All States
County: All Counties
Type of Grant: Grant
Size of the Grant: $10,000 to $100,000
Grant Duration: Grant Duration Not Mentioned
While both of these goals are at the foundation of legitimate and sustainable democracy, they are often pursued separately. In the worst cases, bad faith efforts to persuade members of the public that elections are not trustworthy have laid the groundwork for legislative restrictions on ballot access. While it is essential that pro-democracy actors do not capitulate to these narratives, ideally efforts to build access would not provide momentum for disinformation that may accelerate anti-democratic dynamics. The goal is to support research that addresses both access and trust. They have timed this grantmaking cycle to enable researchers to take advantage of the 2024 election cycle.
As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Public Agenda does not support any candidate or party. As a matter of mission, Public Agenda does not seek to advance any specific political ideology or policy agenda. They will fund projects that contribute to the health and strength of a pluralistic democracy.
- Public Agenda is committed to providing rigorous, actionable evidence to diverse pro-democracy stakeholders. Preference will be given to projects that have a strong potential to produce evidence that can inform the work of practitioners, advocates, policymakers, and funders.
- Evaluation of proposals will be driven by the utility of results for practice, with no preference for any specific research methodology. They will prioritize projects with results that can provide immediate (post-2024 election) practical guidance for advocates and activists, policymakers, and funders in decision making about reforms and practices, and strategies for pursuing them.
- Public Agenda’s purpose in funding original research is to support the development of a body of findings that they will synthesize, translate, and communicate to practitioner communities as soon as possible. They encourage funded researchers to publish results in peer-reviewed journals.
- Public Agenda recognizes that effective access- and trust-building interventions will be context-appropriate. Pro-democracy organizations often focus on groups that are underrepresented in democratic participation (e.g., persons with disabilities, immigrants, young people, BIPOC communities) or more likely to express distrust of election processes and outcomes. They welcome research focused on distinct populations and geographies.
- Public Agenda encourages research partnerships with practitioner organizations and, where possible, will be glad to assist applicants with identifying potential partners. Please contact us if you are interested in identifying a potential research partner. Public Agenda has relationships with both practitioner and research networks, and they may be in a position to connect applicants with organizations that are actively working to increase access and build trust in elections.
- As a pro-democracy organization, Public Agenda recognizes the necessity of contributions from people with diverse identities, experiences, and perspectives. They understand that the movement they seek to support requires expertise drawn from a wide range of disciplines.
Public Agenda’s research focus for this cycle is how to achieve full access to electoral participation for all citizens while strengthening trust and confidence in elections. They imagine proposals may address questions including, not but limited to:
- Are there specific narrative or messaging strategies that encourage skeptical members of the public to see access to electoral participation as a component of a trustworthy electoral system?
- How do combinations of electoral systems and communications strategies affect confidence in elections? How can public education campaigns or other messaging strategies about existing and alternative electoral systems (e.g., first-past-the-post, ranked choice, top-two, open primaries, blanket or jungle primaries) instill greater trust in election processes and outcomes?
- How do combinations of communications strategies and ballot access reforms (e.g., automatic voter registration, same-day registration) affect confidence in elections? What are the most effective strategies for building public trust through strategic communication about ballot access reforms? For example, under what conditions can public education campaigns explaining new voting processes build trust? What about other forms of targeted messaging, such as social media or other advertising?
- What conditions are necessary to instill confidence in voters when it comes to convenience voting such as mail-in ballots, same day registration, etc.?
- Whom do voters trust to implement and enforce ballot access and security measures? Can civil society organizations recruit visible, trusted constituencies as poll workers? Does training veterans, firefighters, or members of specific civic associations as poll workers achieve the twin goals of protecting access while building trust? What communication strategies optimize this approach?
- Can engaging members of these (or other) trusted constituencies as public spokespeople for the trustworthiness of election administration contribute to public trust?
- Which approaches to electoral access and public or voter education show resilience in the face of ongoing exposure to mis- and disinformation?
- At which stages of the election, from registration, ballot casting to tallying of ballots, are trust building interventions most effective? Does an early emphasis on the trustworthiness of the electoral process, for e.g., registration, lends itself to greater confidence in the outcome of elections later on?
- What approaches build and maintain trust in light of the diverse state and local electoral laws and processes (e.g., same day registration, mail-in voting) that define the American electoral landscape?
Public Agenda is willing to fund a wide range of activities, including researcher salary and benefits, research assistance, data purchase, compensation to partner organizations, and costs associated with conducting experiments. Public Agenda will consider requests for salary support for principal and/or co-principal investigators at a maximum contribution of $15,000 per academic year, not including fringe costs.
- Democracy Renewal Grants are open to researchers affiliated with public or nonprofit U.S. universities, and the affiliated university must administer the grant. They expect to award ten or more grants of up to $50,000. Grants made through Public Agenda’s Democracy Renewal Project cannot cover indirect overhead.
- The Principal Investigator (PI) for a proposed project must have a doctoral-level degree. Doctoral candidates may be part of the research team and may be named a Co-PIs as long as at least one Co-PI has a doctoral degree.
For more information, visit Public Agenda.