hand holding pencil filling in bubble test partially completed

The Future of Standardized Testing

The pandemic has forced people to accept a lot of changes, but Americans aren't too sure doing a makeover of standardized testing is one of them. In fact, Americans are divided on the effectiveness of ... Read Now >

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hand holding pencil filling in bubble test partially completed

The Future of Standardized Testing

The pandemic has forced people to accept a lot of changes, but Americans aren’t too sure doing a makeover of standardized testing is one of them. In fact, Americans are divided on the effectiveness of the exams themselves.

Standardized tests in the United States date back to the 19th century and were used as a metric to gauge school outputs and teaching quality. Since then, testing has evolved to better understand students’ comprehension in subjects such as math, reading, writing, science, and history. 

After the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was signed into law in 2002, standardized testing became more prominent. In order for public schools to receive federal funding, they had to administer standardized tests. According to the Pew Center for the States, annual state spending on standardized tests nearly tripled, climbing to almost $1.1 billion in 2008 from $423 million before NCLB was enacted.

Now, two decades later, what do Americans think of standardized testing? And, are test scores as important as they once were?

Let’s start with the most famous tests — college admission products like the SAT and ACT. In a March 2022 Pew Research poll, conducted by Ipsos, 39% of Americans said scores on standardized tests should be a “major factor” in college admissions, while 46% said they should be a “minor factor.” Just 14% believed they should not be a factor at all. 

More colleges and universities have gone test-optional since the pandemic, but Americans aren’t sold on getting rid of tests entirely. Without standardized tests, colleges rely on transcripts, class rank, and admission letters to accept students.

And, the debate on standardized testing also involves younger school-aged children. 

Across the country, K-12 students participate in testing called the Common Core State Standards Initiative. The Common Core standards are similar across all states and allow different schools, states, and districts to compare their students’ proficiency in different subjects. 

In 2015, Braun Research asked Americans whether they favored or opposed the Common Core state tests for K-12 students. Americans were divided with 50% saying they favored the tests, 41% said they didn’t, and 9% indicating they were unsure. 

During the last two decades, public schools have been given financial incentives to perform well on these tests. In 2009, President Barack Obama signed the Race to the Top program into law. The legislation allowed states to compete for $4.35 billion in extra funding based on statewide test score averages.

How did that play with Americans? Divided again.

According to a 2013 National Opinion Research Center and Associated Press poll, Americans were split over monetary incentives in standardized testing. Half said they favored paying teachers more money if students performed better on standardized tests.

While nearly all schools have been fully in-person since the start of 2022, meaning testing can be resumed, the pandemic gave Americans a reason to take a new look at standardized tests.

Some public school districts have responded by offering alternative methods to fulfilling graduation requirements beyond standardized testing and, as we’ve seen, more colleges and universities have reconsidered mandatory SAT or ACT scores.

Still, the future of standardized testing is complicated as Americans disagree over both the requirements to take tests and the value of the tests themselves. What does seem certain is educators, legislators, and parents will continue to tinker with standardized testing until a solid majority of Americans choose a side.

This post was written by Marist Poll Media Team student Greta Stuckey.

protester in horned hat with American flag yelling in Capitol building chambers

It’s Built In: American Polarization, Part 2

This is part two of a two-part series on polarization in America. This post focuses on the systemic causes of polarization that result from our country’s political structure.

Over the past few years, we have witnessed profound political polarization, the emergence of what many see as a radical right and left, and an insurrection that jeopardized the peaceful transition of power.

In the midst of this, Americans are losing pride and faith in the nation and are exceedingly dissatisfied with the performance of their government.

A Gallup poll, conducted in June 2022, showed strong national pride has hit a record low (38%). According to a February Fox News Poll, the overwhelming majority of Americans are “dissatisfied” or “angered” with the way the government is functioning (67%).

What is driving this polarization, loss of pride, and general sense of dissatisfaction with our government?

Many would cite divisive topics like abortion, vaccine and mask mandates, police brutality, and gun control; however, these may only be symptoms of a system that structurally encourages polarization.

Certain structural elements of our system, such as the Electoral College, the rigid two party system, and even the way in which the Senate is composed, serve to amplify or even encourage this political polarization. The common thread tying these structures together is the failure to fully represent the interests of the majority of Americans.

Electoral College

The Electoral College is an integral part of the U.S. Constitution and has been used to select the president since the country’s founding.

Why not just use the popular vote count? The Electoral College system was the result of an elaborate compromise between those who wanted Congress to choose the president and those who preferred using the popular vote.

As a result, when you vote in a general election you are really voting for electors and these electors are the ones who actually cast the votes that elect a president.

Each state has the same number of electors as it does congressional representatives (members of the House and Senate). Therefore, the Electoral College consists of 538 electors and a candidate must receive 270 votes in order to win the election.

Here’s where it gets tricky. Most states are winner-take-all – whichever candidate wins the most votes at the polls gets all of that states’ electoral votes. Except in Maine and Nebraska, where proportional representation means the vote total in each Congressional district dictates how each electoral vote is assigned.

The problem is, candidates can run up the score in some states with huge majorities, but just barely lose in others with literal handfuls of votes deciding the race. The result?

Over the course of our nation’s history, five presidents have been elected while losing the popular vote. In every case except the first, these victors have been Republican candidates who beat out their Democratic adversaries in the Electoral College (or House of Representatives) and not in the popular vote.

In these four elections, any direct political power that voters had in the presidential election process was essentially overruled.

In a 2020 survey conducted by PRRI, 66% of respondents believed that the president should be elected by the popular vote rather than the Electoral College. That same question was asked in a 1993 UWSA Poll, and 73% of those surveyed were in favor of eliminating the Electoral College.

For multiple decades, the overwhelming majority of Americans have shown their disapproval for the Electoral College system, yet it persists.

Why? If such a big majority of Americans believe the system is fundamentally flawed, where is the change?

The simple answer is, it’s really hard.

In order to eliminate the Electoral College, the Constitution would have to be amended. This means it would have to be approved by a ⅔ majority in both the House and Senate, and then ratified by ¾ of the states.

Although this would be a difficult feat, there have been several proposed Electoral College reform bills which are gaining traction. While these may not fix all the issues with the Electoral College, they indicate a growing receptiveness among politicians to change.

Even if the Electoral College is never eliminated, there are other alternatives to giving the (direct) power back to the people.

For instance, the National Popular Vote Compact is an agreement between all signatory states and their electors to pledge all of their electoral college votes to the candidate who wins the national popular vote.

So far, 15 states and the District of Columbia have signed on, representing 36% of the 538 Electoral College votes. If more states join and bring the total to 270 of the 538, it would effectively end the potentially disparate effect of the Electoral College and make U.S. Presidential elections decided by the popular vote.

The Senate

Then, there’s the U.S. Senate.

When Congress was created it was divided into two houses. The House of Representatives and the Senate.

The House of Representatives was created to serve as a representation of the people. Due to this, members of the House of Representatives are elected directly and each state’s number of representatives is determined based on the size of its population.

The Senate was created to give every state equal representation within the legislative process. This means that each state has two senators regardless of their population. And, until 1913, people didn’t even get to vote for their Senators. State legislatures decided who to send to Washington.

The Senate was created as a check on the feared “mob rule” mentality of the House, ensuring that the interests of states with smaller populations would not be steamrolled by those with larger populations.

Although this is what our Founders desired, the structure of the Senate has been the focal point of a lot of criticism recently.

For instance, that Wyoming and California have two senators each, despite their vast population differences, means Wyoming voters have far more power in the Senate on a per capita basis than California voters – which is what the Founders intended – but rubs a lot of people the wrong way.

The House better reflects a state’s population but the two major parties have often used their power over drawing district lines to create seats that are “safe” for their party. With enough clever mapmaking, a state like Georgia, which voted for Biden and two Democratic U.S. Senators in 2020, has nine Republican House seats, four Democratic seats, and 1 competitive district.

And, it gets crazier in the way state legislative districts are drawn. Michiganders have voted for the Democrat in every presidential election since 1992 save one, have had two Democratic Senators since 1978 with one exception, yet have a state senate controlled by Republicans since 1984.

Is there a fix?

A constitutional amendment would be needed to change the number of senators each state has and, as noted above, that’s incredibly unlikely. Fixing the House is somewhat easier.

Arizona and six other states have implemented independent redistricting commissions in an attempt to limit gerrymandering. Other states have made more limited moves and courts have become active in trying to create more fairness in the system. It’s a start, but political power is a powerful motivator!

Two-Party System 

Another area of concern for Americans is the lack of viable alternatives to our two extremely polarized political parties.

A July 2022 Suffolk University Political Research Center/USA Today Poll asked Americans if the current two parties were adequately representing their needs or if more parties were necessary. The majority (60%) agreed that a third, or multiple other parties, is needed.

So, why aren’t third party candidates more successful?

In 1912, Theodore Roosevelt ran on the Bull Moose line and received 27.4% of the popular vote and 88 Electoral College votes. Although this wasn’t enough to win, it set the bar for third party candidate success. Decades later, Ross Perot won nearly 19% of the vote in 1992 but failed to win any states.

Third party candidates have won some big federal and state races like Bernie Sanders and Jesse Ventura.

In 1981, Sanders won the mayoral race for the city of Burlington and, in 1990, was elected to the House of Representatives, running as an independent in both cases. To this day, he remains an independent in his third term in the U.S. Senate. Ventura, on the other hand, ran on a third party line as the Reform Party nominee when he won the Minnesota gubernatorial race in 1998.

While these third party success stories may appear relatively few and far between, they do show that, with enough time, effort, and support, it can happen.

In recent years, Americans have become increasingly frustrated with the two party system and some are calling for additional parties to better represent their interests.

For instance, a new party called Forward is being spearheaded by Andrew Yang and Christine Todd Whitman. The party is composed of former Democrats and Republicans and seeks to establish an option for moderate voters. And, that makes sense according to most polling.

In the 2022 Suffolk University Political Research Center/USA Today poll, Americans were asked about their political identification. Of those surveyed, 9% considered themselves “very liberal” and the same number considered themselves “very conservative.” The largest chunk of the population (36%) considered themselves moderates.

With so many middle-of-the-road voters and such a significant chunk of Americans calling for a third party, the timing may be perfect for the emergence of a strong and stable third party within the United States.

The new Forward Party has the potential to reinvigorate voters and give them a viable alternative to the Democratic and Republican parties.

Even if the Forward Party is not an immediate success, there are other actions being taken to reduce the power of the two-party system.

Many states and municipalities throughout the United States have successfully implemented non-partisan elections. Non-partisan elections allow independent candidates to gain more attention and permit candidates affiliated with a major party to run on more moderate agendas.

Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) is another potential disruptor. It remakes multi-candidate elections by allowing voters to rank all potential candidates in order of preference. This eliminates the need for run-off elections, gives voters a chance to have more say, and gives candidates opportunities to build coalitions as each round of counting eliminates the lowest performing competitor.

Although RCV has been used for a while, it faced one of its biggest tests in the 2021 New York City citywide elections. In the Democratic primary, 13 candidates qualified for the mayoral ballot, and RCV smoothly produced a consensus winner, Eric Adams. Despite criticism that RCV was confusing for voters, it proved to increase voter turnout.

Through the widespread use of things like RCV and non-partisan elections, we may be able to turn the tide on polarization.

Conclusion 

What is clear is that Americans say they are unhappy about how things are going in our politics and polarization is a big cause of that. Structures built into our political system are at least part of the reason we have become so polarized.

So why is nothing changing?

Maybe, for all our talk, most Americans aren’t really pushing very hard to make it so. If we really want to be less polarized and have a political system that more Americans are proud to support, we can’t leave it to the politicians and the political system to make the changes necessary to get there.

This post was written by Marist Poll Media Team student Michael Bowler. Photo credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images

protestors using bull horns to shout at each other

Splitting Apart: American Polarization, Part 1

This is part one of a two-part series on polarization in America. This post focuses on Americans’ views on, and roles in, polarization. Part two addresses the systemic causes of polarization that result from our country’s political structure.

School shootings? Check. Pandemic? Check. Insurrection? Check. In America 2022, just about every issue is a partisan one. 

According to a July Axios/Ipsos poll, Americans think politics act as a bigger social wedge than race or religion. The poll also found that the majority of Americans are not confident that we, as a country, can reconcile our differences in the next five years. 

Events that may have united the country at one time have only led to further polarization in recent years. After the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, a 2020 Gallup Poll found that 61% of Democrats said they always wore masks when outside their house compared to 24% of Republicans. Guidelines once viewed as critical public health measures became partisan talking points. 

Americans have also been divided over school shootings and the country’s best course of action to stop gun violence. In a June NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll, 69% of Republicans said they would definitely vote for a candidate for Congress who wants to allow teachers to carry guns. Only 9% of Democrats said the same. On the other hand, 93% of Democrats said they’d vote for a candidate who backed stricter gun control laws while 28% of Republicans felt the same.

One thing both Democrats and Republicans DO agree on is an increasing lack of confidence in institutions – although not always the same ones. According to a July Gallup Poll, Americans are losing confidence in institutions such as the Supreme Court, big business, the presidency, and the media. Democrats show more than a double-digit loss of confidence in the Supreme Court, while Republicans have lost the most confidence in banks. 

Another area of agreement is concern about…polarization. In a June FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll, polarization and extremism ranked third on a list of 20 top issues facing Americans. Only inflation and gun violence rated higher. And, while Democrats (33%) were more likely to name polarization as an issue, Republicans (23%) were also worried.

Yet despite this stated concern, Americans continue to consume news from media outlets that reinforce their partisan views. According to a YouGov Poll from April, the most politically polarizing media outlet is CNN. While 66% of Democrats rate CNN as trustworthy, only 11% of Republicans say the same. And while 53% of Republicans trust Fox News, only 19% of Democrats do. Pew has done a lot of work on media consumption and the strength of peoples’ level of partisanship while other research has shown that peoples’ choice of media is linked to their command of the facts.

So, we agree that polarization is a major issue. Do we agree on who’s responsible? Sort of.

According to a June FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll, 84% of Americans said political polarization is mostly driven by politicians and political leaders with a tiny 3-point spread between Republicans and Democrats. Wealthy donors and social media placed second and third with majority bi-partisan agreement. Then we diverge. Nearly all (90%) Republicans blame “mainstream” media while a significant 71% of Democrats agree. Conversely, 81% of Democrats blame “conservative” media while 48% of Republicans say the same.

But, what about us? Don’t we bear any personal responsibility for our rapid partisanship? On this we agree. No. Just 22% listed “people in your community” – that’s us – as being any factor at all in why we are where we are.

Now, it’s important to note that political polarization is not a new phenomenon. Polarization has been growing in U.S. politics since the early 90s. One notable moment from that era was Pat Buchanan’s speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention in which he declared a “culture war for the soul of America.” Republicans lost the White House, but many believe Buchanan paved the way for Newt Gingrich to lead the GOP to the historic House victories in 1994.

But, if polarization has only grown over the past three decades, is there anything we can do to change it now?

Perhaps we stop labeling nearly everything as Democratic and Republican. For example, a 2012 study by Carlee Beth Hawkins and Brian Nosek shows that labeling policies as “Democrat” or “Republican” can influence support for ideas. Even if people agree with the general policy, they may oppose it if it appears to come from the other party.

For example, a 2018 study found that the majority of Republicans agree that climate change is happening. However, they were less likely to support policy solutions when presented as Democratic proposals. 

Although using less divisive language and labels seems simple, it may be a hard habit for Americans to break. This news may not seem productive, but it’s actually hopeful. 

While the country is divided, at least some of it may be the result of partisan bias and how we physiologically interpret identity and groups. In order to unite the country, three professors at Cambridge University have offered a list of simple solutions to start rebuilding the gap in America. 

First, more intergroup contact. If done correctly, research shows that getting to know each other can reduce prejudice between groups. However, the contact between two politically different people needs to be sustained so they can have a civilized exchange of ideas and learn from each other over time.

Second, gain the perspective of others unlike us. We all live in different places, hold different jobs, and lead different lives. While this is an important factor in making us who we are, researchers suggest that understanding the perspectives of others can decrease polarization and lead to more understanding. 

Finally, adopt a collective set of superior goals. Psychological literature found that identity-based conflicts require common goals to bring people back together. If we collectively share goals with the hopes of reaching a better future, we will feel more inclined to bridge small differences along the way.

This last one has fairly recent precedent. Ronald Reagan’s 1984 “Morning in America” campaign created a shared sense of purpose around the goal of becoming “prouder, stronger, better.” That campaign helped Reagan win the largest electoral college landslide victory in American history.

Then, the country was swept off its feet again in 2008 when Barack Obama ran for president with his Hope campaign. The theme built on the idea that if we put aside our partisan differences, we could rebuild as a nation from the economic collapse. Obama won with 365 electoral votes to McCain’s 173 votes – not a landslide by Reagan standards but a big win in our hyper-partisan era.

Americans agree polarization is bad and they place most of the blame on politicians. Yet, charismatic politicians like Reagan and Obama proved to unite the country with dreams of a better future. And, events like 9/11 brought the country together in ways few things other than war can. Perhaps it will take one of those two things – or both – to bring us together again.

Or maybe it’s time we look in the mirror and recognize our own responsibility for the polarization we so easily decry to pollsters.

This post was written by Marist Poll Media Team student Greta Stuckey. Photo credit: Jon Cherry/Getty Images

young people of color sitting and talking through a megaphone to a rally

Time for a (Generational) Change?

Most of the top elected officials in Washington are old. Much older than the average age of their constituents. Just take a look: Chuck Schumer 71, Joe Biden 79, Mitch McConnell 80, and Nancy Pelosi 82. Although Americans continue to vote for older politicians, in public opinion polls, they say they want younger representation.

According to data collected by CNN, the 117th Congress is the oldest, on average, of any Congress in two decades. The average age of current senators is 64, and the average age of house members is 58. While that may not seem all that old, the average age of Americans according to the 2020 Census was 39.

Currently, the U.S. has minimum age limits to become an elected official — for instance, you have to be at least 35 to be elected President. But there are no maximum age limits for elected officials nor mandatory retirement ages. South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond holds the record for oldest sitting Senator – he retired after turning 100 and died a few months later.

However, Americans seem ready for all this to change. A YouGov Poll this year found 58% of Americans say there should be a maximum age limit for elected officials. And look at this: While nearly every issue nowadays has a partisan split, Americans across the political spectrum agree there should be age limits for elected officials. But, there is a split on what that age limit should be: 24% say 60 years old, 39% say 70, 23% say 80, and 5% say 90. 

Analysis from YouGov found that if senators over 60 were barred from holding office, 71% of current senators would be ineligible to serve. If applied to the Presidency, that age limit would make President Biden and former President Trump ineligible to serve. So, if the majority of current national elected officials were ineligible for office, whom would Americans vote for to replace them?

Young people say they’re looking for a generational change. For instance, a 2018 poll conducted by AP-NORC and MTV found 79% of Americans ages 15 to 34 say leaders from their generation would do a better job running the country.

One political action committee (PAC), The Next 50, is pushing young Democrats to run for office as a result. It recently announced a national campaign to support 50 millennial and Gen Z candidates under the age of 45 ahead of the midterms.

Similarly, Rep. Elise Stefanik R-NY, the third-ranking Republican in the House has recruited young GOP women for Congressional races in 2022. Stefanik is the founder of Elevated PAC and has endorsed candidates such as Karoline Leavitt who is in her early 20s.

But, can younger candidates really win elections?

The first barrier for many is money. That’s where PACs like The Next 50 and Elevate can help. Older candidates and those who’ve previously held office tend to have stronger establishment ties and more access to campaign cash.

Still, money only gets you so far. If young people want younger representation in office, they’ll need to vote in numbers like their older relatives. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Americans between 18 and 29 are the least likely to vote in elections, while those 45 and over are the most likely to vote.

Voting Rates by Age

In the last presidential election, 57% of voters 18-34 cast their ballots, up from 49% in 2016 according to census data. Encouraging news until you see this: 74% of those 65 and older voted in 2020.

Why does voting age matter? Political science research conducted at Emory University found that voters typically prefer candidates “who are closest to themselves in age.” Since older Americans are more likely to vote, we probably shouldn’t be surprised by our “Senior Citizen Senate.”

But, the numbers don’t lie. Young people’s votes could make a lot of difference. Gen Z is the largest generation in American history, comprising 27% of the U.S. population. It is also the most ethnically diverse generation. If they’d just vote….

Even though Americans tell pollsters they want younger elected officials, they don’t always follow through at the ballot box. Recently, Rep. Madison Cawthorn R-NC, a first-term 27-year-old GOP congressman, lost his primary to a 61-year-old. Then again, he was plagued by scandals and the average age in the district is about 20% older than the rest of North Carolina. 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez D-NY, is 32, has a large social media presence, and seems to excite young Democratic voters. Yet, she is rated one of the least effective members of Congress. Out of 240 Democrats in Congress, AOC ranked 230th for legislative effectiveness according to a new survey from the Center for Effective Lawmaking.

Americans are asking for a lot: young and impactful leaders. In some cases, we’re getting just that. Sen. Tammy Duckworth D-IL, is a 54-year-old Democrat who was ranked as the fifth most effective Democratic Senator in the 116th Congress by the Center for Effective Lawmaking. And, while Duckworth is more than two decades older than AOC, she is about 10 years younger than the average Senator. 

In the Republican Party, Stefanik, who is 38, is ranked among the top 10 most effective Republican lawmakers and the most effective Republican for commerce policy. 

While these youthful politicians are relatively few and far between, they do exist. Their success in politics opens up more doors to young individuals who want to run for office. As opportunities and chances for financial assistance increase, and the American electorate gets younger on average, the demographics of elected officials may begin to shift and better reflect what Americans want – and look like – at least age-wise.

But, if young Americans want to see themselves reflected in their political leaders, they’ll need to get busy voting in numbers like their grandparents.

This post was written by Marist Poll Media Team student Greta Stuckey.

car with electric cord

A Perfect Storm for EVs

Gas prices are on the rise and so are electric vehicle (EV) sales. Has the price at the pump given the EV industry a way to appeal to the average consumer? 

On June 11th, the national average for a gallon of gas passed the five dollar mark, for the first time ever, peaking at $5.02. While prices have come down a bit since then, gas is still historically expensive.

Often big spikes in fossil fuel prices spark conversations about accelerating the transition to renewable alternatives and this recent increase is no different. 

A March 25th survey conducted by George Mason University & Yale University, asked Americans what the most important priority should be for addressing the US’s current energy needs. A majority (62%) said it was to develop more renewable energy sources. 

In the same survey, a similar majority (59%) either strongly or somewhat supported a policy that accelerated the transition to electric vehicles.

While EV sales in the US have grown by more than 103% since 2020 – indicating the transition may already be accelerating – they still represent under 5% of the total car and truck sales in the U.S. 

And, there are other indications not all Americans are convinced. A CNBC poll from April of this year showed just 16% of Americans saying they were considering buying an EV over the next two years as a result of rising gas prices.

What’s driving this hesitancy? An IPSOS poll from September 2021 provides some clues.

Note: Adds to more than 100% due to multiple responses. Source: Ipsos Understanding Society, Wave 20 September 2021, Question 5 [31118672.00004].

Four major hurdles appear to stand in the way of EVs making the leap into the mainstream. The top two concerns non-EV drivers gave in the survey were unwillingness to part with their current vehicles (46%) and the high purchase price (45%). The next most common objections were limited driving range (28%) and a general lack of necessary charging infrastructure (22%).

Although these concerns foster a sense of EV reluctance among consumers, both the auto industry and the U.S. government have taken steps to alleviate them. 

For instance, last November, President Biden signed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law which allocated $7.5 billion for the construction of half a million EV charging stations along major US roadways.

In addition, the administration got the auto industry to agree to a voluntary target of increasing EV sales to 50% of total car sales in the US by 2030.

Buyers can get up to a $7,500 federal tax credit (but not for Teslas or GM EVs since the rebates end when a manufacturer has sold 200,000 qualifying vehicles) and there are some state incentives, as well. These help calm EV sticker shock.

But that’s changing, too. Over the past decade, the EV market has been largely dependent on environmentalists and those wealthy enough to afford what were almost always luxury models.

Now, manufacturers like Ford, Hyundai, Nissan, VW, and Toyota are bringing more reasonably-priced models to market. 

This combination of lower-priced EV models, generous tax credits, increasingly common charging stations, and the high price of gas seems like it may be a “perfect storm” to rapidly accelerate a historic shift from gas-powered cars to battery-powered vehicles.

As with organic foods moving from an expensive luxury only bought by early adopters, EVs appear to be charging into the mainstream right here, right now.

This post was written by Marist Poll Media Team student Michael Bowler.

young man sitting with head in hands

America’s Mental Health Crisis

Americans are stressed out; they have been living through a pandemic, school shootings, and high inflation. Just in time, there’s a new mental health hotline launching, but it’s unclear how much it can do to fix what a majority of Americans believe is a broken mental healthcare system.

According to a survey by Mental Health America in 2022, nearly 50 million American adults were diagnosed with mental illness. The same data found that over 2.5 million 12-17 year olds have been diagnosed with major depression.

So, what’s being done? After the pandemic started in 2020, the number of Americans going to therapy increased according to data from a OnePoll on behalf of Vida Health. But therapy isn’t always how we deal with mental illness. Often, the police are called to respond to those suffering from a mental health crisis. 

A June Ipsos Poll conducted on behalf of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) found that 86% of Americans believe a person experiencing a mental health or suicide crisis should receive a mental health response, not a police response. Only 13% of Americans think a police response is the better option.

Why are Americans hesitant to rely on the police to deal with people having mental health issues?

Maybe because of cases like this:

  • In 2020, 13-year-old Linden Cameron, who has autism, was having a mental health crisis when his mother called the police and asked for a crisis intervention team to provide help and treatment for her son. When the police arrived, Cameron ran away and was shot by a Salt Lake City police officer leaving him with injuries to his shoulder, ankles, intestines, and bladder, as well as nerve damage.
  • In 2021, Patrick Warren Sr. was shot and killed by Texas law enforcement while having a mental health crisis. 
  • In July, Robert E. Crimo III killed seven people in a mass shooting at the Highland Park Fourth of July parade. Prior to the shooting, Crimo had two encounters with law enforcement and a mental health assessment but received no treatment.

America’s mental health crisis has gotten Congress to act. Instead of calling 911, Americans can now call the number 988 to get connected to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The line goes live on July 16, allowing people to dial 988 and speak with trained mental health care professionals in their local area. 

Will it make a difference? Only 4% of Americans in the NAMI/Ipsos poll reported being familiar with the number and nearly half of Americans said they remain unaware of where to seek help in the event that someone they love is having a mental health crisis.

Creating a new mental health hotline is one step, but it’s probably not enough — Americans said they are more likely to strongly trust 911 than 988 according to the NAMI/Ipsos survey. Although, remember, very few are even aware the new line exists. And calling 988 can’t provide shelter, therapy, or long-term treatment to those suffering from mental illness. 

Yet, it’s a start. Here might be the most surprising thing about America’s mental health crisis: There’s no real partisan divide. The majority of Democrats, Republicans, and independents say they aren’t happy with the state of mental health care in the U.S. Perhaps that will be enough to get America to develop a comprehensive mental health strategy.

This post was written by Marist Poll Media Team student Greta Stuckey.

The History of Juneteenth

Today is America’s newest federal holiday but most Americans don’t know much about it and don’t celebrate it. That’s not too surprising since the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act was just signed into law by President Joe Biden last year.

“On Juneteenth, we recommit ourselves to the work of equity, equality, and justice,” Biden said in his Juneteenth proclamation. “And, we celebrate the centuries of struggle, courage, and hope that have brought us to this time of progress and possibility.”

But, do Americans want Juneteenth as a national holiday? 

In a 2021 Ipsos poll, just 33% of Americans believed that Juneteenth should be a national holiday, and 62% said they didn’t plan to observe it. 

Why? A  majority of Americans may not celebrate Juneteenth simply because they don’t know much about it. When a 2021 Gallup Poll asked Americans if they think Juneteenth should be a federal holiday, 40% said they didn’t know or were unfamiliar with Juneteenth. Only 12%, in that same poll, said they knew “a lot” about it.

Although Juneteenth has only recently gained mainstream attention, it has been celebrated since 1866 and goes by other names such as “Jubilee Day,” “Emancipation Day,” “Freedom Day” and “Black Independence Day.” 

So why, 156 years later, is it just now breaking through? And why don’t you remember learning about it in school? Here’s a little history:

Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 to free enslaved African Americans, two years before the Civil War would end. However, the enslaved people in Confederate states were generally only freed when Union troops arrived to enforce it. One of the last places the Union arrived was in Galveston, Texas – on June 19, 1865.

The following year the formerly enslaved people celebrated the first Juneteenth. 

Today, Americans celebrate Juneteenth with parades, barbeques, parties, and the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation. The color red is symbolic on Juneteenth as it represents the blood that was shed during the path to freedom. 

Many Americans don’t know much or any Juneteenth history in part because it isn’t widely taught in schools. In 2020, CBS News conducted an investigation into how black history is taught in the U.S. It discovered that the standards in seven states didn’t outwardly mention slavery, and eight states ommitted mentioning the civil rights movement.

A plurality of Americans think this should change. In a Gallup Poll from last year, 49% said public schools should add Juneteenth to their history curriculum.

But, why make it a national holiday now? A century and a half later?

Juneteenth came to national prominence in 2020 after a number of Black Americans were killed during encounters with law enforcement. Their deaths highlighted the continued racial injustice in the country as more blood was shed in the African American community. 

After Biden took office in 2021, he signed a Proclamation on Juneteenth to recognize the inequalities Black Americans have faced for hundreds of years. The national holiday stands not only as a reminder of the past, but as a symbol of the ongoing fight to reach equality.

This post was written by Marist Poll Media Team student Greta Stuckey.

Do Photoshop Disclaimers Work?

In a post earlier this year, we looked into the link between body dissatisfaction and the use of social media. It turns out some countries have been trying to do something about it, but there is a big question mark about whether these regulations really work.

Countries have passed laws regarding weight requirements and other guidelines to protect models in the fashion industry. Some have implemented Photoshop disclaimer labeling policies to show the viewer that the images are not “real.”

France enacted a disclaimer law in 2016 and Norway passed a similar regulation last summer mandating all edited images be clearly labeled as having been altered. 

But, does any of this have any effect?

Researchers have studied the implementation of disclaimer labels. A study at Flinders University in Australia may disappoint disclaimer advocates.

In the study, 363 female undergraduate students viewed various fashion advertisements, testing whether prior information they had about digital alteration could improve the effectiveness of a disclaimer label. Before reviewing the ads, some participants were asked to read one of three stories that discussed photo manipulation, unrealistic body images, or news unrelated to these issues. After reading the assigned article, participants were shown various fashion magazines either without labels or with digital alteration disclaimers.  

The results showed that body dissatisfaction increased among those who’d seen magazines with or without disclaimer labels and among all the participants regardless of the articles they’d been assigned. 

So, back to the drawing boards? What’s clear is that more research is needed into the other methods for reducing the harm caused by the flood of body perfect imagery. Because it seems unlikely these images are going to disappear from our ever more body-conscious digital world.

This post was written by Marist Poll Media Team student Emily Frey.

Statue of Fredrick Douglass

The History of Black History Month

February is Black History Month and, over the last decade, it has gained a lot more prominence than it once had. It’s also very possible President Joe Biden will nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court this month, making this celebration all the more meaningful.

A recent Morning Consult/Politico Poll showed 51% of Americans supported Biden’s commitment to name a Black woman to the court. At the same time, just 38% in the same poll said it was “important” that he do so. If Biden does follow through on his promise and she is approved by the Senate, she would be the first Black woman, and only the third Black justice, to sit on the Supreme Court.

But how did Black History Month get its start? And why February? Here’s a little history:

In 1915, nearly half a century after the 13th Amendment abolished slavery in the U.S., the Association for the Study of Negro (now African American) Life and History was founded. In 1926, the association named the second week of February as national Negro History Week.

Why was the second week of February significant? It coincided with the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglass. And so it went for another 50 years.

During that time, some cities recognized the week, but, by the 1960s with the civil rights movement fully engaged, some colleges began marking Black History Month.

In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized February as Black History Month, asking Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

It has only grown in importance since. This year, the month is dedicated to “Black Health and Wellness,” with the goal of spotlighting Black scholars and medical workers, as well as, demonstrating different perspectives on health beyond mainstream medicine.

This post was written by Marist Poll Media Team student Emily Frey.

The Future of Ranked Choice Voting

Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) got its big Broadway debut last summer but is it ready to open wide?

RCV is a way to vote that allows voters to rank candidates by preference on ballots. The process ensures that in multi-candidate races, one ends up with an outright majority without having to resort to run-off elections. One side effect is that RCV increases the chances for third party or independent candidates to get elected.

While RCV has been around for years and has been used in numerous places in the U.S., last summer New York City used it in the citywide elections. This was RCV’s biggest test yet. How did it go and what does it mean for the future? Read on!

RCV in 2022

An analysis done by Citizens Union showed that RCV boosted voter turnout and brought more diverse and young voters to the polls in the NYC primary. It reduced so-called “wasted” votes (votes for candidates with little chance of winning outright) and brought more representation from across the five boroughs.

Deb Otis from the RCV advocacy group Fair Vote said on a recent episode of the Poll Hub podcast, it “opens the playing field for candidates from all sorts of backgrounds.” And indeed, in NYC, 35 Democratic primary winners identified themselves as a person of color. That’s up from 26 in the current council.

Exit polls conducted by Edison Research showed 95% of people thought rank choice voting was “simple to complete.” That was good news for RVC since some critics suggested it was confusing and would hurt everything from turnout to down-ballot voting.

Otis says, “we are used to ranking things in our everyday lives, and it turns out when voters have that option at the ballot box, they want to use it.”

And, while there were some problems that cropped up on Election Day and after (RCV results are often delayed by at least a day), professor Lisa Disch at the University of Michigan may have summed it up best: “The fact that (ranked-choice voting) survived even the New York Board of Elections and produced solid results shows the robustness of the system.”

Another impact of RCV is in how some candidates campaigned. Some formed alliances, encouraging supporters to vote for them first and their allied competitor second. Kathryn Garcia, a Democratic candidate who formed a pact with another, describes campaigning in RCV: “It might not always be a lovefest but it certainly doesn’t have to be a slugfest.”

So…now that RCV has made it in NYC, will it make it everywhere? Perhaps.

Bipartisan Love?

One often overlooked benefit of RCV is that it’s ideologically neutral. Both parties benefit from the system because it increases voter turnout overall. Dr. Lee Miringoff, Director of the Marist College Institute of Public Opinion, says, “at a time when we are talking about voter fraud and voter suppression, this seems to democratize voting.”

RCV was first used in the U.S. in 2004 in San Franciso. As of 2021, more than 9.2 million voting-age citizens live in areas that use RCV. Since the New York City election, RCV has gotten a lot of new attention with new localities adding, or considering, adopting it for at least some elections.

All signs point to a bright future for RCV in the U.S.

This post was written by Marist Poll Media Team student Athen Hollis.