One of the greatest threats to democracy is the idea that it is unassailable.

At a time of potential danger to American demo­c­ra­t­ic norms and insti­tu­tions, it is more urgent than ever for scholars to highlight the risks to our system of gov­ern­ment. In this spirit, Bright Line Watch brings together a group of political sci­en­tists to monitor demo­c­ra­t­ic practices, their resilience, and potential threats.

Featured report

Courts, Campaigns, and Confidence in American Democracy

The 2024 campaign promises to be like nothing the United States has seen before. Normally, spring of a pres­i­den­tial election year is dominated by a com­pet­i­tive campaign for the nom­i­na­tion of at least one major party. This year, neither the Democratic nor Republican primary contest is com­pet­i­tive. Instead, the coming months appear set to be dominated by legal machi­na­tions, with Republican front-runner Donald Trump facing four sets of criminal indict­ments and his legal team deploying appeals and pro­ce­dur­al objec­tions to delay trials for as long as possible. In this context, and with attention to the potential impli­ca­tions of these devel­op­ments for the per­for­mance of American democracy, we fielded parallel surveys of 678 political sci­en­tists and a rep­re­sen­ta­tive sample of 2,798 Americans from February 15–23, 2024. Given the impor­tance of precisely measuring Republican per­cep­tions of topics such as the 2020 election and pros­e­cu­tions of Trump, the public survey included an over­sam­ple of Republicans. It is, however, weighted to be rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the American public as a whole.

March 2024

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Bright Line Watch in the media

A Year After Jan. 6, Millions of Americans Support Violence by Blake Hounshell and Leah Askarinam at The New York Times, 1/5/2022

Why Jan. 6th Was Not A Turning Point by FiveThirtyEight Politics, 1/4/2022

Don’t Despair About U.S. Democracy. Fix It.
by Jonathan Bernstein at The Washington Post, 12/23/2021

‘We are closer to civil war than any of us would like to believe,’ new study says
by Dana Milbank at The Washington Post, 12/17/2021






U.S. Democracy Faces Real Threats
by Jonathan Bernstein at The Washington Post, 12/17/21

Republicans’ belief in Trump’s ‘Big Lie’ holds steady as con­fi­dence in U.S. elections dips by Eli Stokols at Los Angeles Times, 12/16/2021 

The Races That Could Prevent The Hijacking Of The 2024 Election
by Travis Waldron at HuffPost, 12/16/21

1 in 6 committed Republicans would support a violent pro-Trump coup
by Christopher Ingraham at The Why Axis (Substack), 12/16/2021


Bright Line Watch is grateful for funding from these organizations

William & Flora Hewlett Foundation