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Why American Federalism is a Recipe for Distrust in Elections

Co-hosted with The Bill Lane Center for the American West

Event Details:

Thursday, February 22, 2024
4:00pm - 5:30pm PST


John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn Building
366 Galvez Street
Stanford, CA 94305
United States


This event is open to:

General Public

Join us for an informative event that delves into the intricate dynamics of election trust across state lines! 

The Constitution grants power over election administration to the states, but this presents a formidable challenge in our present era when states are polarizing along party lines, diverging in policy, and in near-constant conflict. Although non-partisan election officials use similar methods to protect and verify the counting of ballots across the nation, voters who are unaware of these protections may rely on their knowledge about other policy conflict to determine how much they trust the integrity of other states’ elections. This project documents evidence that federalism and partisan polarization combine to hinder trust in elections across state lines. Based on a series of surveys of the nation and in key states, we show that red-state Americans don’t trust blue-state elections (and vice versa). Then we identify a promising solution. The informational videos that election officials across the country have been producing to explain the protections on the ballot count can, our randomized experiments show, bring significant increases in trust. Vitally, these videos work across state and party lines, convincing Republicans in Texas to trust California elections and Democrats in California to trust Texas elections. These experiments provide evidence that a robust public information campaign could help overcome polarized trust in election integrity across state lines.

About the Speaker:

Thad Kousser is a Professor of Political Science and Co-Director of the Yankelovich Center at UC San Diego, where he studies American state and national politics. He has been a visiting professor at Stanford University, a Flinders Fulbright Distinguished Chair at Flinders University in Australia, received UCSD's Academic Senate's Distinguished Teaching Award, served as co-editor of the journals Legislative Studies Quarterly and State Politics and Policy Quarterly, and has worked as a staff assistant in the California, New Mexico, and United States Senates. Kousser also comments on American politics for venues such as NPR, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Politico, The Hill, the Los Angeles Times, and the San Diego Union Tribune. 

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