If you’re preparing for midterm elections in the U.S. on Tuesday, please keep in mind the various resources we’ve created to help journalists cover local and national elections. We’ve got tip sheets, explainers and research roundups on election topics ranging from political polls and campaign finances to voter behavior and provisional ballots. We also look at some of the topics that will appear on ballots in the form of ballot measures, as well as the policy topics voters say they care about most.
Covering opinion polls
- Questions to ask about opinion polls: This tip sheet outlines 11 questions journalists should ask to help them decide how to frame the findings of a public opinion poll — or cover them at all.
- What you need to know about margin of error: This tip sheet explains how to use margin of error to correctly interpret the results of opinion polls and surveys.
- Percent change versus percentage-point change: We explain the difference between these two math terms and provide tips for avoiding errors.
- The dangers of horse race reporting: When journalists cover elections as a competitive game, there can be harmful consequences for candidates, voters and news outlets, this collection of research suggests.
- Better horse race reporting: Because it’s unlikely journalists will stop reporting elections this way, we asked two scholars for ideas for at least improving these news stories.
Tips for covering midterm elections
- 8 tips from a former elections administrator: Tammy Patrick, a former federal compliance officer for the Maricopa County Elections Department in Arizona, provides advice for new and experienced journalists, including a list of things to monitor on Election Day.
- 11 tips from veteran journalists and election scholars: Experienced political reporters suggest ways journalists can make the best use of their time at local voting precincts. Meanwhile, scholars who research polling place dynamics share insights to help journalists spot problems and contextualize the information they gather.
- 4 tips on covering far-right rallies: Harvard researcher Joan Donovan, an expert on right-wing extremism and misinformation campaigns, says journalists can do these four things to minimize harm and keep rumors, lies and other bad information out of their coverage.
Research to improve coverage of midterm elections
- The role of local election officials: We highlight five studies that examine the role elections officials and poll workers play in making voting run smoothly. One study explains how the different processes for registering people to vote can affect registration rates across a state.
- How health affects voter turnout: This roundup of research suggests people with chronic illnesses, mental health concerns, disabilities and the seasonal flu are less likely to vote.
- Factors that can influence voter decisions on ballot measures: We spotlight research on the various factors that can influence whether voters support or reject a ballot measure, including how it’s worded and where it appears on the ballot.
Research on ballot measure issues
We’ve also gathered and summarized research on several issues that will go before voters during this year’s midterm elections. In most states, voters will be asked to weigh in on proposals to enact new laws or policies, make changes to others or amend their state constitutions. You can help them make more informed choices by explaining what the research says about these topics.
- Sports betting: This piece looks at the landscape of legal sports betting in the U.S. and explains what the research says about how legalization affects tax revenues. It also provides a brief history of sports betting.
- Rent control: We’ve summarized research that investigates whether rent control and rent stabilization policies help tenants stay in their homes.
- Marijuana: Read this to get up to date about what’s known and unknown about the health effects of cannabis products.
- “Election Beat 2022”: Harvard media scholar Thomas E. Patterson has written a series of research-based columns examining issues around the 2022 midterm elections and how journalists cover elections more broadly.
- What journalists need to know about the ballot initiative process: The manager of a voter empowerment project discusses what it takes for citizens to get a proposition on the ballot and the many ways those efforts can be stalled or sidelined.
Issues that matter most to voters
Inflation, the economy, crime, health care and climate change ranked as the top five “most important problems facing the country today” in a recent survey of 21,122 Americans conducted by the COVID States project — a collaboration between Harvard Medical School; Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy; Northeastern University Network Science Institute; Northwestern University and Rutgers University. Here’s a sampling of recent explainers and research roundups on those topics:
- 4 things journalists should know when covering an economic downturn: It’s important for journalists to aim for clarity in headlines and coverage and help audiences understand what a recession is and isn’t, who decides when the economy is in recession, and what really matters to most Americans’ economic perceptions.
- Real earnings in America: Parsing strong wage growth against high inflation: News outlets often report on inflation, but they don’t always cover the interaction between inflation and earnings.
- Gun buybacks: What the research says: Gun buybacks allow gun owners to trade their firearms to law enforcement, no questions asked. We dive into what the research says on whether they work to reduce gun violence.
- Our health care archive: Here’s where you’ll find our repository of research roundups, tip sheets, articles and explainers related to health, health care and health equity
- Covering scientific consensus: What to avoid and how to get it right: You may know that there’s a scientific consensus that climate change is human-caused. But what does “scientific consensus” really mean? We explain the concept and how to avoid pitfalls when explaining it to your audience.