Where red and blue meet: cancel culture, fair elections

A new and uniquely constructed survey of American voters finds glimmers of hope that Democrats and Republicans can agree on steps needed to shore up an increasingly shaky democracy.

The results show members of both parties want transparent and fair elections, stronger voting rights and believe “cancel culture” is real.

The survey was conducted by government professors Steve Israel and Doug Kriner. The results were released in conjunction with the State of Democracy Summit, held at the Cornell Club in New York City on May 24 and organized by the Institute of Politics and Global Affairs (IOPGA) at the Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy.

The survey was structured to compare political views nationwide with the opinions of voters in two battleground congressional districts – one in Michigan, the other in Texas. It was designed in partnership with pollster Anna Greenberg ‘90 and fielded by the survey research firm Verasight.

“We wanted to pinpoint the political divides and the points of agreement between the country as a whole and the people who decide the balance of power in Washington,” Israel said.

Among the most significant findings:

  • Democrats and Republicans strongly supported election reforms that would require all election officials and poll-watchers to be nonpartisan.
  • Concerns about election security also span the partisan divide, with Democrats and Republicans supporting reforms to require a photo ID to vote. Democrats in the Texas swing district were especially enthusiastic about photo ID laws.
  • Among Republicans, the most unexpected result was the degree of support (67%) for increased federal oversight of election laws in states that have a history of discrimination against minority voters or voting rights violations.
  • “Cancel culture” – efforts to silence journalists and university faculty for expressing views some find offensive – is often seen as a pet peeve of conservative Republicans, but an overwhelming majority of Democrats (70%) supported stopping “canceling” people with unpopular or offensive ideas and strengthening free speech.

Israel and Kriner did find significant differences between the national and swing district results.

“Generally, efforts to overturn elections and change voting laws are perceived as greater threats by swing district voters (particularly Democrats and independents) than in the national sample,” Kriner said. “Swing district voters are also much less likely to think the U.S. is on the right track, and that’s particularly true with Democrats.”

Overall, Israel and Kriner said the survey results should convince members of Congress to compromise as they consider bills that would guarantee equitable access to the ballot while providing greater electoral security. New laws that accomplish both goals would be broadly popular in both parties.

Israel is director of IOPGA, and a professor in the Cornell Brooks School and in the Department of Government in the College of Arts and Sciences. Kriner is the Clinton Rossiter Professor in American Institutions in the Department of Government in the College of Arts and Sciences and a professor in the Cornell Brooks School.

The survey was fielded by Verasight from Feb. 17 to April 1, and recruited 1,316 respondents in the national sample; 573 respondents in the TX-15 sample; and 550 respondents in the MI-8 sample.

Jim Hanchett is assistant dean of communications in the Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy.

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