In a time of heightened polarization, partisanship, and disinformation, what drives American voters is a question top of mind for many, including Stanford scholars who have studied recent U.S. elections and what has inspired and influenced people at the polls.

What researchers have learned about voters is varied and nuanced, with a number of factors, from geographic to generational distinctions, influencing voter behavior and beliefs. Others have explored how messaging and framing matters as well, and how even demonstrating empathy can make a difference in building political consensus.

Meanwhile, some have also looked at ways to disrupt some of the troubling trends that are affecting current politics and elections, particularly the rise in anti-democratic attitudes and partisan animosity.

Ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, here is some of that research – and more – to revisit.

If you are a journalist looking to speak with a Stanford scholar on voting and election, browse our list of subject matter experts willing to speak to media here.

How to strengthen democracy

A Stanford-led project has identified a set of strategies to counter anti-democratic attitudes and reduce partisan animosity.

Could deliberative democracy depolarize America?

Deliberative democracy – informed and moderated discussion that transcends partisan identities – can lead to a depolarized and more democratic society, according to Stanford research.

The roots of legislative polarization

New research shows how state elections are producing a more extreme pipeline of political candidates.

Will the Jan. 6 hearings make a difference?

The hearings will be a test for the Republican Party, and whether or not it can successfully disavow its extremist wing, says Stanford scholar.

How the urban-rural divide shapes elections

The geographic divide, which pits Democratic voters living mostly in cities against Republicans in exurban and rural areas, has an impact on representation and policymaking, Stanford scholar Jonathan Rodden says.

The gap between the Supreme Court and most Americans’ views is growing

A new study finds that not only has the court’s majority shifted dramatically rightward in the past two years, its stances are now significantly more conservative than most Americans’.

In political messages, values matter more than policy

When progressive candidates talk about how their policies are aligned with values commonly associated with conservative ideals – as opposed to liberal ones – they receive greater support from conservatives and moderates.

Political consensus through empathy

In an era of strident polarization – and just in time for the midterm elections – a new study tests an approach for building political consensus and reducing partisan animosity.

If you lived here, you might be a voter by now

Political economy Professor Andrew B. Hall’s research explores whether the link between owning a home and voting is one of causation or correlation – and what that matters if we want an engaged electorate.

Groupthink gone wrong: How assumptions about electability undermine women political candidates

When voters perceive women political candidates to be less electable than men they are likely to vote for a man instead. But there are ways to overcome these often-exaggerated beliefs, according to new Stanford research.

9 things to know about election polling data

Stanford political scientist David Brady discusses the lessons pollsters learned in the 2016 election and what to know about tracking election forecasts in 2020.

How journalists’ preference for round numbers can influence elections

Governors beware: When newspapers play up unemployment milestones, it could cost you your seat.

Honesty in statistical models

A new statistical model built on Stanford research generates more nuanced predictions for complicated events. The Washington Post ran this model during the 2020 presidential election and plans to use it for future elections.

How protests can swing elections

A study shows that both liberal and conservative protests have had a real impact on U.S. House elections.

How violent protest can backfire

When a protest group with strong public support turns violent, people may perceive them as less reasonable. In turn, this leads people to identify with them less, and ultimately become less supportive, according to a new study by Stanford sociologist Robb Willer.

How race influences, amplifies backlash against outspoken women

When women break gender norms, the most negative reactions may come from people of the same race.

Examining effects, challenges of mail-in voting

Mail-in voting has come under partisan scrutiny, but according to Stanford research, it does not appear to benefit one political party over the other. However, challenges to mail-in and absentee voting remain as states and voters make a shift this November.

Political polarization did not increase with COVID-19, Stanford research finds

A potential reason could stem from the creation of a new sense of unity in response to a national threat.

America leads other countries in deepening polarization

America’s widening political divide stands out above other nations, according to a new cross-country polarization study by Stanford economists.

What to know about Gen Z

Generation Z, the first generation never to know the world without the internet, value diversity and finding their own unique identities, says Stanford scholar Roberta Katz.

Dead people don’t vote: Study points to an ‘extremely rare’ fraud

SIEPR’s Andrew Hall scoured 4.5 million voter records in one state and found only 14 possible cases of ballots cast on behalf of people who had died.

Party sorting to blame for political stalemate

Political gridlock in contemporary U.S. politics can be explained by the increased sorting of the Democratic and Republican parties, says Stanford political scientist Morris Fiorina.

Q&A: Justin Grimmer on allegations of election fraud in 2020 presidential election

In this conversation, Senior Fellow Justin Grimmer talks about his new research paper that analyzes and challenges allegations of voter fraud during the 2020 presidential election.

Journalism and democracy

In a complex news environment, Stanford professors urge voters to be careful consumers of political information and to think hard about where information comes from and how it reaches them.