Research to Help Renew Democracy

professor emily rong zhang

Professor Emily Rong Zhang is one of the first recipients of Public Agenda’s Democracy Renewal Project grants — which are funding studies that show how to reach universal access to elections while strengthening trust and confidence in one of democracy’s core mechanisms. 

In partnership with the Alliance for Safety and Justice, Zhang and Naomi Sugie of the University of California, Irvine, will expand the scope of Project VOICES. The initiative is a randomized controlled trial testing text-messaging interventions to enhance political participation among individuals with criminal records and their families. Zhang and Sugie will analyze whether this kind of outreach from trusted messengers can build trust among a constituency that’s been historically underrepresented among voters. 

The Democracy Renewal Project grants were chosen through a competitive process and evaluated by a panel of experts, timed to allow scholars to gather data from the 2024 election cycle. They were awarded to researchers at a variety of other top institutions, including Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Texas.