Brian Fogarty, director of Notre Dame’s Center for Social Science Research, has received a Rapid Response Research (RAPID) grant from the National Science Foundation to study the prevalence of belief in voter fraud and to identify ways of restoring confidence in U.S. elections.
Fogarty, who is also a concurrent associate professor of the practice in the Department of Political Science, will work with colleagues at Dartmouth College, Princeton University, and the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom who are experts in political misinformation.
The NSF awards RAPID grants to research projects that require an urgent response to unanticipated events. With claims of voter fraud on the rise in recent years, and the coronavirus pandemic leading to a significant increase in the use of mail-in ballots, Fogarty sought the grant in order to develop research that could assess public opinion at a critical moment in American history.
“Without the NSF RAPID grant, we would have been unable to field our study during such an historically unique election and presidential transition period,” Fogarty said. “The funding allowed us to respond to rapidly changing events on the ground in our research design and data collection procedures and measures.”
Fogarty’s research involves a survey focused on perceptions of voter fraud, the impact of COVID-19 on the presidential election, and acceptance of President Joe Biden’s victory. The same survey is then delivered again, but half the respondents are provided with a news article fact-checking former President Donald Trump’s claims about voter fraud. The goal is to see whether direct factual information corrects misperceptions and impacts the survey results.
The researchers also have access to some of the respondents’ Internet activity data, allowing them to assess how much misinformation they were exposed to regarding voter fraud and the legitimacy of the 2020 election.
Fogarty, who is also associate director of the newly established Lucy Family Institute for Data and Society, and his colleagues intend to provide practical recommendations for policymakers and journalists about how to combat misperceptions of voting by mail and bolster confidence in elections, especially ones held during an ongoing pandemic.
“We hope to contribute to scholarship on understanding the voter and electoral fraud information environment and provide solutions to the growing fact-perception gap amongst American voters,” Fogarty said.