As Americans face troubling new barriers to vote, is Philanthropy ready to help?Learn more
The Democracy program strives to build alliances that bring together a left-to-right spectrum of viewpoints on civics, citizenship, and immigration, while reflecting America’s long tradition of acceptance and respect for newcomers of all nationalities, cultures, and religions.
Pluralism, the belief in one nation made up of many peoples, has been essential to U.S. democracy from the beginning. The Democracy program’s support for alliance building is based on this belief. Our goal is to bring a wide range of pro-immigrant voices into the immigration debate from across the political spectrum during a time of deep polarization, when it is even more crucial to recommend bipartisan solutions to immigration reform, election administration, and voting rights. For example, the Corporation’s support has fostered successful teamwork among members of the business, faith, law enforcement, government, and other key communities to advocate for the value of immigrants and immigration.
We support national nonprofit groups that educate, coordinate, and strengthen a field made up of locally based organizations dealing with challenges to democracy, immigration, voting, and related issues. These challenges result from the dearth of effective federal policies needed to promote and protect the civil and human rights of all people in the United States.
Threats to democracy and civic engagement exist in all corners of the country. State and local governments wield tremendous power in the United States, especially in areas not addressed by the federal government. For example, a patchwork of state and local laws attempts to deal with an immigration system that is in crisis. To establish a strong field that can take on numerous challenges to our democracy, the Corporation funds national organizations such as NEO Philanthropy, which houses funder collaboratives like the Four Freedoms Fund. Another grantee, the State Infrastructure Fund, working across a majority of states, has helped build a diverse network of smaller associations that advocate for policy improvements at the local, state, and federal levels.
The Corporation funds original research on important issues, including voting rights, voter participation, immigration, citizenship, and the census, in order to improve federal and state policies regarding immigrant integration and civic engagement.
A strong U.S. democracy depends on government policies developed on the basis of robust nonpartisan research. Corporation-funded research has, for example, shown that mass deportation would cost $285 billion to arrest, detain, and deport undocumented immigrants in the United States. By contrast, reforming the entire U.S. immigration system would add $1.5 trillion to the economy over 10 years. Another study funded by the Corporation analyzed the impact of nonpartisan voter engagement to groups that tend to have low turnout on Election Day. This research showed an overall 12.5 percent increase in voting rates due to this direct, meaningful outreach, resulting in a 19.1 percent increase in turnout for Hispanic voters, a 13.1 percent increase for African Americans, and a 4.2 percent increase for Asian Americans.
The Democracy program’s support for strategic communications is designed to promote intelligent, unbiased, nonpartisan news coverage to deepen public understanding of civic issues like voting rights, voter engagement, immigration, and the census.
A vibrant democracy must have what Thomas Jefferson called the “fourth branch” of government: an independent press capable of keeping citizens informed. Strategic communications, along with the other pillars of our program — alliance building, field building, and policy development — ensures that our message is shared in a thoughtful way, nationally and regionally, reaching communities across the country to build support and momentum for immigration policy changes and the protection of voting rights.
Engaged citizens — those who care about and work to preserve our democracy — help ensure that government policies reflect the concerns of constituents. A democracy, by definition, gives eligible citizens the right to vote for their elected representatives.
Carnegie Corporation of New York’s commitment to citizenship and voting rights began with our founder Andrew Carnegie, who stated, “Along with the freedom to pursue wealth and happiness, the greatest gift the American Republic has to bestow is citizenship.” Carnegie also believed that, in return for this gift, citizens have duties. For more than a century, the Corporation has consistently emphasized both the rights and the responsibilities of citizenship. The Democracy program provides strategic, ongoing support to organizations that promote nonpartisan voter engagement, especially among groups with traditionally low levels of voting or with less access to information about government. Compared to other democracies, voter participation in the U.S. is comparatively low, even in recent years when voter turnout has been higher than usual. For example, 55.7% turnout in 2016 put the U.S. in 26th place among the 32 developed countries. With barriers to voting on the rise (e.g., complex voter registration requirements and cutbacks in early voting), large-scale efforts to protect voting rights and encourage voter engagement at the federal and state levels are of critical importance.