Supporting research to strengthen democracy

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Lauren Prather against a lightened and blurred background of handheld American flags in a crowd

Associate professor Lauren Prather will jointly receive $46,000 in funding to study election monitoring in November

Lauren Prather, associate professor at the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy, and her research collaborator Sarah Bush, associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania, have been named as co-recipients of over $46,000 in research funding from the nonprofit organization Public Agenda

The funding comes as part of Public Agenda’s Democracy Renewal Project, a new initiative to catalyze rigorous, actionable research on promising practices and interventions to strengthen American democracy.

Prather and Bush have an ongoing project studying how election monitor access in the U.S. shapes voter confidence and also were coauthors of the 2022 book “Monitors and Meddlers: How Foreign Actors Influence Local Trust in Elections.”

Election monitoring is a global norm, with countries around the world inviting election monitors to observe elections and report their findings. Their earlier research showed that election monitors can increase confidence in elections and improve the quality of elections under certain conditions — and the domestic study will show whether election monitors could have similar effects on U.S. elections. 

The two have carried out two initial surveys of around 1,500 participants each in the U.S., and with the funding, they plan to field two additional surveys of similar size around the November 2024 election. 

“These surveys will shed light on whether individuals trust elections more in states where election monitors are allowed access to the polls and whether candidates who support election monitor access are more popular,” Prather explained. 

Prather said that she and Bush are grateful to have the support of Public Agenda and to be a part of the cohort of scholars receiving funding. 

“Public Agenda’s mission to increase access to elections and improve voter confidence is critical for U.S. democracy,” Prather said. “We are thrilled that our research can contribute to this mission.”

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Virginia S. Watson is the Assistant Director of Communications for the School of Global Policy and Strategy. She has spent her entire career in editing, writing and design, both in industry and higher education. She holds a master's in technical and professional communication from Auburn University and a B.S. in journalism from Troy University.
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