Tracking Voter Support for Electoral Reforms

Citizen’s democracy research has included studying voter support for electoral reforms nationally and in key states, including support specifically for non-partisan primaries, ranked choice voting, and a top 4 or “Final Five” package solution similar to the set of reforms passed last year in Alaska. Our goal has been to identify and understand on a detailed level the base of support for these reforms and help partners use voter analysis to inform their strategies going forward.

In a recent comprehensive analysis, we examine attitudes towards various democracy reforms, elevate key questions that warrant further research, and identify preliminary opportunities for further education and persuasion. Our analysis synthesizes data from survey responses from September 2020 and January 2021 surveys; knowledge from experience working on the Alaska Ballot Measure 2 campaign; and precinct-level results from related ballot initiatives in Maine, Florida, and New York City.

Key conclusions include:

  • Support is high for some kind of reform to make representatives more accountable to their constituencies. The top ten states in which voters express strong interest in reform are Minnesota, DC, Rhode Island, Alaska, Washington, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Wisconsin.
  • While 65% of Americans agree that we need electoral reform, they are divided on what specific measure should be passed. While non-partisan primaries consistently receive support from a majority of voters (43% support open primaries), ranked choice voting is currently unpopular (19% support) as a standalone policy, particularly with strong Republicans and very conservative voters.
  • The states below that had the most support for open primaries are also the highest in support for general reform and ranked choice voting as well. Support for open primaries is the highest in Alaska (+38%), followed by Hawaii (+37%), Oregon (+34%), Washington (+32%), and Minnesota (+31%).
  • The following types of voters are generally the friendliest to electoral reforms, and specifically a package like that passed in Alaska:
    • Democrats, and self-described non-partisans;
    • Young voters, particularly those under 34;
    • Hispanic voters, though white voters also rank highly among demographic groups; and
    • Individuals at either end of the income spectrum, such as those making less than $25,000 or over $150,000 per year.
  • In general, these demographics are relatively more likely to indicate opposition to electoral reforms:
    • Older voters, particularly those over the age of 65;
    • Less educated voters, particularly those with only a high school education or less; and
    • Self-identified Republicans.
  • Those who are unsure are very evenly spread across demographic categories and generally represent about 30% of respondents, regardless of income, race, education, or age.

You can read the full analysis here, and see toplines for survey research used here.