The IRC Sofia Blog Ends Publication

The U.S. Embassy is reorienting our public information services to better support our friends and readers in Bulgaria.  Due to broad availability of materials via internet and popular search platforms, we are closing the Embassy’s Information Resource Center (IRC) office on May 21 and will no longer provide online research services.  Instead, we are increasing our staffing resources to support people-to-people exchange programs and public outreach activities.  This is the end result of a process that began a number of years ago.  We thank all of our readers and patrons and we look forward to working with you in other capacities.  If you are looking for information resources about the United States, our partners at the American Corners can provide some limited support: Sofia (, Plovdiv (, and Varna (


Confronting 2016 and 2020 Polling Limitations

Confronting 2016 and 2020 Polling Limitations. Pew Research Center. Courtney Kennedy et al. April 8, 2021

The 2016 and 2020 elections raised questions about the state of public opinion polling. Some of the criticism was premature or overheated, considering that polling ultimately got key contours of the 2020 election correct (e.g., the Electoral College and national popular vote winner; Democrats taking control of the Senate). But the consistency with which most poll results differed from those election outcomes is undeniable. Looking at final estimates of the outcome of the 2020 U.S. presidential race, 93% of national polls overstated the Democratic candidate’s support among voters, while nearly as many (88%) did so in 2016.

This report summarizes new research into the data quality of Pew Research Center’s U.S. polling. It builds on prior studies that have benchmarked the Center’s data against authoritative estimates for nonelectoral topics like smoking rates, employment rates or health care coverage. As context, the Center conducts surveys using its online panel, the American Trends Panel (ATP). The ATP is recruited offline via random national sampling of residential addresses. Each survey is statistically adjusted to match national estimates for political party identification and registered voter status in addition to demographics and other benchmarks. The analysis in this report probes whether the ATP is in any way underrepresenting Republicans, either by recruiting too few into the panel or by losing Republicans at a higher rate. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 25 pages].

Many in U.S., Western Europe Say Their Political System Needs Major Reform

Many in U.S., Western Europe Say Their Political System Needs Major Reform. Pew Research Center.  Richard Wike et al. March 31, 2021

Americans are especially likely to say politicians are corrupt

As they continue to struggle with a public health crisis and ongoing economic challenges, many people in the United States and Western Europe are also frustrated with politics.

A four-nation Pew Research Center survey conducted in November and December of 2020 finds that roughly two-thirds of adults in France and the U.S., as well as about half in the United Kingdom, believe their political system needs major changes or needs to be completely reformed. Calls for significant reform are less common in Germany, where about four-in-ten express this view. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 39 pages].

Serving Youth Remotely: Strategies for Practitioners

Serving Youth Remotely: Strategies for Practitioners. Urban Institute. Amanda Briggs et al. March 31, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges for young people and staff at youth-serving organizations that provide education and training, employment, and mental health services. Challenges are more pronounced for youth who may lack access to digital devices and conducive learning environments or who must balance program participation, work, and family responsibilities. This resource guide for practitioners describes creative strategies that youth-serving organizations have used to provide remote services while prioritizing equity. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 40 pages].

Countering Foreign Interference in U.S. Elections

Countering Foreign Interference in U.S. Elections. RAND Corporation. Marek N. Posard, Hilary Reininger, Todd C. Helmus. March 29, 2021.

This report is the fourth in a four-part series aimed at helping policymakers and the public understand—and mitigate—the threat of online foreign interference in national, state, and local elections. During future U.S. political campaigns, Russia might try again to manipulate and divide U.S. voters via social media. Given the past and likely extant threats to U.S. elections, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services asked for research to help analyze, forecast, and mitigate threats by foreign actors targeting local, state, and national elections.

This report first describes research from focus groups and individual interviews on how people respond to memes sourced in Russia that were designed to breed dissension and to a public service announcement (PSA) warning about such online manipulation, then outlines a strategy to counter foreign interference in U.S. elections. The authors posit that adversaries are trying to exploit fault lines that already exist within U.S. society. These efforts could be effectively countered by collecting open-source intelligence on social media; releasing a simple, well-designed PSA for use during election cycles that warns the public about strategic threats targeting U.S. elections; and coordinating with social media companies to flag the source of foreign political content. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 68 pages].

The U.S. Criminal Justice System in the Pandemic Era and Beyond

The U.S. Criminal Justice System in the Pandemic Era and Beyond: Taking Stock of Efforts to Maintain Safety and Justice Through the COVID-19 Pandemic and Prepare for Future Challenges. RAND Corporation. Brian A. Jackson et al. April 8, 2021.

Beginning in spring 2020, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) swept through the United States, infecting millions and killing hundreds of thousands of Americans. In some areas, incarcerated populations were hit hard by the disease. Significant numbers of justice system practitioners, including law enforcement officers, court staff and leaders, corrections staff, and service providers were infected, and deaths from COVID-19 became a primary cause of lives lost in the line of duty. At the same time, national protests in response to the killing of George Floyd and other Black Americans focused attention on equity and fairness in the justice system, resulting in significant pressure for reform.

The conditions faced by organizations across the justice system differed widely, and responses to address the risk of infection varied from place to place. Many of the responses to the pandemic focused on increases in physical distancing and the use of virtual technologies to continue the operations of the justice system while minimizing infection risk.

In an effort to gather lessons learned from the responses of different justice agencies to the pandemic, the Priority Criminal Justice Needs Initiative convened a set of workshops at the end of September 2020 with justice agency representatives and others to take stock of what had been done and look toward the future. A variety of common challenges and innovations were identified in the workshops that assisted in continuing the operation of the system through the pandemic and also might support broader reforms and justice system innovation going forward. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 356 pages].

U.S. Energy in the 21st Century: A Primer

U.S. Energy in the 21st Century: A Primer. Congressional Research Service.  Melissa N. Diaz et al. March 16, 2021.

Since the start of the 21st century, the U.S. energy system has changed tremendously. Technological advances in energy production have driven changes in energy consumption, and the United States has moved from being a net importer of most forms of energy to a declining importer—and a net exporter in 2019. The United States remains the second largest producer and consumer of energy in the world, behind China.

[PDF format, 53 pages].

Republicans and Democrats Move Further Apart in Views of Voting Access

Republicans and Democrats Move Further Apart in Views of Voting Access. Pew Research Center. April 22, 2021

Declining shares of Republicans favor ‘no excuse’ absentee and early voting, automatically registering all eligible citizens to vote

In the months since the 2020 election, partisan conflicts over election rules and procedures – both at the state and federal levels – have become increasingly contentious.

Among U.S. adults overall, sizable majorities favor several policies aimed at making it easier for citizens to register and vote, as well as a requirement that voters be required to show government-issued photo identification before voting. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 26 pages].

Global Economic Impacts of Climate Shocks, Climate Policy, and Changes in Climate Risk Assessment

Global Economic Impacts of Climate Shocks, Climate Policy, and Changes in Climate Risk Assessment. Brookings Institution. Roshen Fernando, Weifeng Liu, and Warwick J. McKibbin. March 31, 2021

This study assesses the global macroeconomic consequences of changes in climate risk. We explore three broad areas: (1) the macroeconomic impacts of physical climate risk due to chronic climate change associated with global temperature increases and climate-related extreme shocks; (2) the macroeconomic effects of climate policies designed to transition to net zero emissions by 2050 (transition risk); and (3) the potential macroeconomic consequences of changes in risk premia in financial markets associated with increasing concern over climate events.

To assess the macroeconomic consequences of climate change, we consider four widely used climate scenarios (Representative Concentration Pathways, or RCP), and identify the physical damage functions due to chronic climate risks from the literature. The chronic climate risks considered in this study include sea-level rise, crop yield changes, heat-induced impacts on labor, and increased incidence of diseases. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 80 pages].

Co-designing Digital Interventions and Technology Projects with Civil Society

Co-designing Digital Interventions and Technology Projects with Civil Society. World Economic Forum. Urvashi Aneja et al. 6 April 2021

This paper explores the concept of co-design in partnership with civil society, using COVID-19 technology interventions as an entry point. While media headlines often focus on the new technologies themselves, such as contact tracing apps, the focus of this paper is the role of civil society in developing these technologies in collaboration with the private and public sectors. The paper is a step towards thinking analytically, and therefore intentionally, about co-design as the practice continues to be explored. While care has been taken not to overgeneralize, the findings of the report suggest that the ability of civil society to influence the development and impact of COVID-19 tech tools was made possible by access to resources, long-standing relationships with the private sector or government, and the capacity to be seen as a trusted expert. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 21 pages].