Democracy in Crisis: A Resource Guide

Essential to modern conceptions of democracy are certain fundamental notions, such as individual liberty, equality of rights, freedom from tyranny and the accountability of representatives and ordinary citizens alike to the rule of law. The political upheaval through which in recent years democracy has been tested by the lure of tyranny, both here in the United States and elsewhere around the globe, has raised doubts about the durability of democratic institutions and the value of these notions. Widely shared American ideals, always imperfectly realized through our Constitution, cannot be taken for granted as aspirations with global appeal; domestic political machinations no longer uniformly presuppose their inherent worthiness. These interlocking crises of global and national, state and local democracy have become so mutually entangled that clear indications of their meaning for individual citizens are now difficult to recognize. Through the 2024 national election year Princeton Public Library staff are collecting and sharing in this guide any resources they believe to be especially helpful for making sense of this global crisis of democracy.

Read | Watch/Listen | Research


These three book lists feature items from the our collection with democracy as their theme. Each book list will be continually developed throughout 2024, so that current resources and the most essential sources will be included.

This general list features items which explore the current state of democracy in the world and the nature of the present crisis.

This specialized list includes the readings selected for a book group hosted at the library in partnership with the Catherine Project. Each of the titles is a work of widely recognized significance on the essential nature of democracy and the core tendencies of the political order which it establishes.

The third list identifies titles pertaining to disinformation and misinformation, two forces pervading our current political discourse and undermining our democracy’s potential to build consensus among parties with competing interests.

The following short reads are recommended as well, in order to get a quick impression of these topics:


The videos embedded below document presentations by accomplished academics and leading journalists, who explored the relationships between democracy, citizenship, and journalism in a daylong Public Humanities Forum held at the Princeton Public Library on December 2, 2023.

The first panel features speakers discussing the ways in which passive citizens have claimed the rights and privileges for themselves, thus empowering themselves and deepening the democratic commitments, however minimal they may have been, of the societies to which they belonged.

A second panel built upon this theme by examining the specific institutional and professional profile of journalism, sometimes called the “fourth estate” for its vital role as a check on the powers of government. Each panelist spoke to ways in which the journalism has been and could be even further democratized by ordinary citizens, even as they addressed concerns about the hazards to the profession which such broad participation may involve.

A final keynote speaker, Princeton University’s Professor Jan-Werner Müller, delivered a culminating final lecture on the essential role of journalistic institutions for any democracy, how they contribute to the “critical infrastructure” which supports democratic politics by holding its conflicting parties and constituents accountable to the facts.


Use the resources below to explore the wide variety of information from federal, state and local governments, as well as private and public organizations, all dealing with topics relating to democracy. While not comprehensive, this list serves as an entry point for those interested in learning more about this timely topic.


The library subscribes to a significant collection of research databases that are searchable using a variety of options such as keyword and subject. Many of the research articles found in these databases are available in full-text and provide immediate access to the contents of the articles, journals, and magazines. All visitors to the library can access these databases while in the library, and Princeton Public Library cardholders can access most from home with their library card number and PIN (usually the last 4 digits of the cardholder’s phone number). Databases of particular interest on the topic related to democracy are:

Cardholders also have access to the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal from home via a special code available from the Information Desk on the second floor.

Please contact us if you need assistance searching these databases or to receive the codes for NYT and WSJ.

Websites on Democracy:

Democracy Conversation Project from NJ Council for the Humanities: The council organizes an exhibit tour titled Voices and Votes: Democracy in America with 15 partnering institutions across the state. The project aims to document how residents of the state “define, understand, and partipate in American democracy.”

Democracy Index (Oxford University): The index presents data in aggregate that demonstrates “the extent to which citizens can choose their political leaders in free and fair elections, enjoy civil liberties, prefer democracy over other political systems, can and do participate in politics, and have a functioning government that acts on their behalf. It ranges from 0 to 10 (most democratic).”

The Global State of Democracy Report from International IDEA (Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance): Now in its fifth year, International IDEA “provides evidence-based, balanced analysis and data on the state and quality of democracy for 173 countries across the world.”

Freedom House (Reports page): Since 1941, this organization has worked to support activists and mobilize policy makers and leaders in service of promoting human rights, freedom and democracy. Their robust research reports are featured on this page. 

The Carter Center is a nonprofit human-rights organization that “seeks to prevent and resolve conflicts, enhance freedom and democracy, and improve health”

New Jersey Coalition for Democracy Reform is a nonpartisan, volunteer-run organization dedicated to uniting New Jerseyans for the purpose of broad democracy reform.

Websites on Misinformation and Disinformation

A Survey of Expert Views on Misinformation: Definitions, determinants, and future of the field: This well-organized and succinct report from Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public policy provides expert analysis on the definition of misinformation and debates surrounding it. 

The Network Contagion Research Institute: A project of Rutgers University, the network is an independent group whose mission it is to track, expose and combat misinformation through “empowering partners to become proactive in protecting themselves against false narratives that create rifts of distrust that impact institutions, capital markets, public health, and safety”.

Strategies for Evaluating Online Information: from Stanford’s “Civic Online Reasoning” curriculum: A full and free curriculum on misinformation and disinformation from Stanford University that includes assessments, lessons and videos. 

Misinformation and Disinformation: A Guide for Protecting Yourself: This guide from provides learning resources about misinformation and disinformation, fact checking tips and strategies for protecting yourself and your loved ones from misinformation and disinformation. 

IREX is a global development and educational organization whose “learn to discern” approach focuses on identifying credible information for decision-making, recognizing misinformation/disinformationand alleviating the impact and spread of misleading and manipulative information.

Websites on News Literacy and Journalism: 

BBC Disinformation Watch: A biweekly newsletter focused on the spread of misinformation and disinformation in the news includes topical deep-dives, studies and insights from leading researchers in the field.

Black in Jersey is a “social media storytelling and information hub specializing in restorative narratives about communities of color.”

Center for Cooperative Media (Montclair State University): Founded in 2012 to address the diminishing presence of local journalism in New Jersey, the center “coordinates statewide and regional reporting, connecting more than 280 local news and information providers trough its flagship project, NJ News Commons.”

Center for News Literacy from Stony Brook University School of Journalism: A curated collection of lessons, video tutorial and resources for learners of all ages from Stony Brook University.

Core Principles of Ethical Journalism from the Ethical Journalism Network: ENJ unites “more than seventy groups journalists, editors, press owners and media support groups from across the globe.” The many diverse supporters of the group find consensus in their shared commitment to the principles of ethical journalism.

Evaluating News Sources” and “What Makes a Trustworthy News Source” (chapters from “An Open Education Pressbook” by Mike Caulfield): This open educational resource offers tips and strategies for enhancing the ability to evaluate information online and in the news. Mike Caulfield is a research scientist at the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public, where he studies the spread of online rumors and misinformation. 

Ad Fontes Media is a media research organization that has created an Interactive Media Bias Chart allowing users to evaluate source bias, including the accuracy of factual and investigative reporting and political positions of their editorial writing. 

New Jersey Civic Information Consortium: The consortium’s mission is to “to foster increased civic engagement by providing financial resources to organizations building and supporting local news and information in communities across New Jersey, with a particular emphasis on news deserts and historically marginalized groups.” 

The Poynter Institute for Media Studies has been a hub for supporting journalists in their education and professional development since its founding in 1975.

“Source Hacking: Media Manipulation in Practice” from Data & Society provides insight into several ways media manipulators spread disinformation.

Websites for Fact Checking A trusted go-to source for assessing the veracity of news coverage. is a project sponsored by the Annenberg Public Policy Center.

Politifact is an American nonprofit project of the Poynter Institute. Known for its “Truth-O-Meter”, Politifact is where users can go to check the accuracy of claims made by politicians and elected officials.

Snopes dates back to 1994 by investigating “urban legends, hoaxes, and folklore.” It has evolved over time into a reliable resource for overturning misinformation with “evidence-based and contextualized analysis.”

Scroll to Top