Report: Understanding Pro-Democracy Conservatives

A Report on Current Levels of Election Trust and Partisan Identity

Click here to read the report.

At a moment in time in which many are questioning the parameters, rules, and institutions of the American republic, the SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University has been co-leading a new initiative to explore and build the contours of a conservative pro-democracy movement.

The rationale for the launch of the initiative stemmed from the fact that the majority of democracy reform efforts predominantly consist of practitioners and scholars from the left — occasionally with token conservatives at the table. This is not due to a lack of interest in democracy reform on the right. In fact, one reason for this imbalance is the severe political and personal costs that right-of-center individuals pay for undertaking pro-democracy activities – making it difficult to create a credible- and large-enough cohort for pro-democracy conservatives to collaborate and act.

Crucially, for the conservative movement—and for the viability of a functioning, two-party system of self-governance in the United States—it is critical that pro-democracy elements of the right mobilize. These individuals believe in the importance of a liberal society and free and fair elections and decry the increasingly prevalent anti-democratic faction of the Republican party. They need a space to test ideas and assess whether a common agenda is possible. A viable pro-democracy agenda on the right must be translated and supported, from conservative grasstops to conservative grassroots movements and leaders.

The work to date has focused on:

  • Convening conservative experts and officials at the local and national level to discuss, explore, and outline a pro-democracy agenda
  • Conducting research to better understand the motivators of election trust and distrust in the country, with a focus on differentiating between conservatives who deny the results of the 2020 election and those who believe those results
  • Catalyzing effective follow-on action from the members of this community.

We wanted to explore the factors — such as personal characteristics, behaviors, and opinions/attitudes — that distinguish Republicans who believe Biden won the 2020 election or aren’t sure who won (believers) from those who believe Trump won the 2020 election (deniers). Our initial findings make it clear that conservative election believers are a unique political group. They consume more traditional sources of information, hold more progressive societal perspectives, and are more likely to believe in democratic values, such as conceding when candidates lose elections. They are a group that is more supportive of democracy – though they often feel politically alone. This report provides initial insight into the differences between these two groups of Republicans in comparison with the rest of the electorate.