Democracy Works-logo

Democracy Works

Education Podcasts

Examining what it means to live in a democracy

Examining what it means to live in a democracy


University Park, PA


Examining what it means to live in a democracy






Trust, facts, and democracy in a polarized world

This episode was recorded before COVID-19 changed everything, but many of the themes we discuss about public opinion polling and the importance of trust and facts to a democracy are perhaps more relevant now than ever before. We talked with Michael Dimock, president of the Pew Research Center, about how the organization approaches polling in […]


Bonus: Civic engagement, social distancing, and democracy reform

Democracy is very much a group activity. Inside, we come together to debate, discuss, do the work of government, and make laws. Outside, we protest and hold rallies. But much of this is not possible. Social distancing presents a tremendous challenge. In this episode from The Democracy Group podcast network, we look at the barriers […]


Give me liberty or give me COVID-19?

From Maine to California, people across the country have gathered at their state capitols over the past few weeks to protest stay at home orders issued by their governors in response to COVID-19. Protest is a hallmark of any democracy, but what happens when doing so comes with health risks? What is motivating people to […]


Bonus: COVID-19 and Democracy with The Democracy Group

We are excited to collaborate with our partners in The Democracy Group podcast network to bring you a bonus episode on how COVID-19 is impacting democracy in the United States and around the world. COVID-19 brings together several issues that have long been talked about separately — political polarization, misinformation, international cooperation, democratic norms and […]


Federalism in uncertain times

With each passing day, the relationship between states and the federal government seems to grow more complicated. States are forming coalitions and working together to chart a path out of COVID-19, while sometimes competing with one another for resources. A lack of clear guidance from the federal government will likely lead to a fragmented return […]


Will COVID-19 create a one-issue campaign?

The general election is going to happen in November, and candidates still need to figure out ways to get their messages out to voters. COVID-19 has changed everything about the way candidates communicate with potential voters and how they position themselves in relationship to the virus. This episode addresses the nuts and bolts of campaigning […]


Public health depends on the Census

The COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. intensified just as the 2020 Census was getting underway in earnest. As Americans fill their days with news about the new coronavirus, the Census Bureau is doing everything it can to spread the word about completing the Census online while grappling with how to do critical in-person follow […]


Free and fair elections during a pandemic

As COVID-19 intensifies throughout the U.S., questions about the future of the remaining primary elections and the general election in November are beginning to surface. The last thing you want are large groups of people standing in line near each other for long periods of time. At a time when seemingly everything in life has […]


COVID-19 exposes democracy’s tensions

As we’ve seen over the past weeks and months, democracies and authoritarian countries respond to pandemics very differently. There are balances to be struck — liberty and community, human rights and disease mitigation — that every country’s government and culture handle a little differently. We dive into that this week with our first ever all-remote […]


Populism is not a monolith

We know that there are a lot of episodes about COVID-19 out there right now. We’re working on one of our own that we hope to bring to you soon, but in the meantime, consider something different to focus on while you practice social distancing this week. We’ve talked a lot on this show about […]


Swamp Stories: Cashing In

It’s spring break at Penn State this week and we’re going to take a brief hiatus to bring you an episode from a new podcast that’s part of The Democracy Group, our new podcast network. Swamp Stories is produced by Issue One, a group that takes a cross partisan approach to democracy reform. The podcast follows […]


The promise and peril of early voting

Super Tuesday is this week, but voters in many states have already cast their ballots for races happening this week and throughout the rest of the primary season. From Florida to Pennsylvania, states are expanding access to early and absentee voting to give people more options to make their voices heard in our democracy. Sounds […]


Breaking down black politics

As the South Carolina primary approaches, all eyes are on the African American vote. This week, Michael Berkman is taking over the interviewer’s chair for a roundtable discussion on black politics with Ray Block and Candis Watts Smith, who are associate professors of African American studies and political science at Penn State. Ray is the […]


Does Congress promote partisan gridlock?

Some of the most talked-about issues in Congress these days are not about the substance of policies or bills being debated on the floor. Instead, the focus is on the partisan conflict between the parties and the endless debate about whether individual members of Congress will break with party ranks on any particular vote. This […]


How states are working to keep your vote safe

Elections are the bedrock of any democracy. Without confidence in the process or the results, confidence in democracy itself is vulnerable. With the primary season underway and the general election just a few months away, conversations about election security are starting to enter the public conscience. We saw this firsthand in Iowa last week as […]


Primaries, parties, and the public

The 2020 primary season officially begins today with the Iowa caucuses, followed by the New Hampshire primary on February 11 and Nevada and South Carolina later this month. It’s easy to forget that the primaries have not looked like they do now. In fact, it was not until 1968 that things really began to morph […]


The connective tissue of democracy

The Women’s March 2020 was held in cities across the country on January 18. What began as a conversation on social media has evolved into a network of groups and organizations that are united in opposition to the Trump administration. From 2017-2019, Dana Fisher and her research team interviewed participants at Washington, D.C. protests, including […]


How the Tea Party and the Resistance are upending politics

Since 2008, the Tea Party and the Resistance have caused some major shake-ups for the Republican and Democratic parties. The changes fall outside the scope of traditional party politics, and outside the realm of traditional social science research. To better understand what’s going on Theda Skocpol, the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Strategy […]


A 2020 preview

This week, we begin a new year and a new season with a look ahead what 2020 will mean for democracy in the United States and around the world. We know that there will be a Census and an election, but will they be carried out in a democratic way? The escalating conflict with Iran […]


Grassroots organizing to “reboot” democracy [rebroadcast]

Happy New Year! Our winter break continues with a rebroadcast from fall 2018 with Lara Putnam on grassroots organizing in suburban America. This episode was recorded before the 2018 midterms, but many of the trends we discuss bore out in the election. Putnam is a Professor and Chair of the History Department at the University […]