The Public’s View on Democracy Reform

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Welcome to NAVIGATOR – a project designed to better understand the American public’s views on issues of the day and help advocates, elected officials, and other interested parties understand the language, imagery, and messaging needed to make and win key policy arguments.

This release features findings from a national online survey of 1,000 registered voters conducted January 8-11, 2021. 104 additional interviews were conducted among Hispanic voters, 103 additional interviews were conducted among African American voters, and 100 additional interviews were conducted among independents without a partisan lean.

Key takeaways

  • As Biden’s inauguration approaches, majorities of Americans support ending gerrymandering, eliminating the filibuster, and abolishing the Electoral College.
  • The public says eliminating the Electoral College would have a “positive impact” on our government and would begin to make “every American’s vote count.”
  • Eliminating the filibuster is most effectively framed as a “loophole,” and Americans are most convinced by messaging that it creates more gridlock in Washington.

Majorities Support Ending Gerrymandering, Increasing Voter Access, and Eliminating the Filibuster and Electoral College

Proposals that get majority support across party lines include ending gerrymandering and getting rid of the filibuster.

Most Say Eliminating the Electoral College Would Have a Positive Impact on Government

Three in four Democrats and nearly half of independents say it would be positive, as do a third of Republicans.

  • While 51% of Republicans say 2020 decreased their confidence in the Electoral College, a plurality (44%) say its elimination would have a negative impact in making “our government work better for the people.”

“Making Every American’s Vote Count” Most Compelling Framing to Advocate for Abolishing the Electoral College

Nearly half of independents and Republicans say it would make “every American’s vote count.”

Limited Familiarity with Filibuster

Only half say they understand the filibuster “well,” including only one in five who say they understand it “very well.”

  • Only 19% of Democrats and Republicans each say they understand what the filibuster is “very well,” as do just 15% of independents.

Despite Low Filibuster Awareness, Majority See Positive Impact from Getting Rid of Filibuster Framed as “Loophole”

A majority say getting rid of the “loophole that allows a small minority of U.S. senators to block legislation” would have a positive impact on making “our government work better for the people it represents.”

Top Reasons to Abolish Filibuster: Gridlock, Allowing Will of Majority to Become Law, Pass Popular Legislation

The most convincing reason to abolish the filibuster for Democrats is the filibuster’s routine use to prevent specific policies – like background checks – while gridlock is most convincing for independents and Republicans.

Eliminating the Filibuster Would Begin To Make the Senate More Efficient and Lessen Gridlock

Two in five say eliminating the filibuster would make the Senate “more efficient and effective.”

A Range of Progressive Messages are Effective Against a Pro-Filibuster Argument

Messaging focused on gridlock, the filibuster’s anti-civil rights history, and its anti-democratic nature are compelling.

Passage of Economic Relief, Background Checks, and Infrastructure are Compelling Reasons to Eliminate Filibuster

Pandemic relief and infrastructure are compelling across party lines.

Since March 2020, Former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Favorability Has Tanked By 35 Points

At the end of Trump’s presidency, former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s favorability is 43 points underwater.

  • In March 2020, McConnell was at net -13 among independents (23% fav/36% unfav) and +34 among Republicans (56%/22%); now, he’s at net -50 (11%/61%) and -9 (37%/46%) respectively.