Demos (U.S. think tank)

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Formation 2000
Headquarters New York City, New York

Demos is a United States-based research and policy center founded in 2000 that presents a liberal[1] viewpoint on economic issues. Their focus includes election reform, economic security,[2] sustainability and alternative measures of economic progress.


A multi-issue national organization, Demos combines research, policy development and advocacy to influence public debate and catalyze progressive change. The name "Demos" is derived from the Greek word meaning “the people” and is the root for the word “Democracy." [3]


In the late 1990s, Demos was conceptualized by Charles Halpern, President of the Nathan Cummings Foundation (1989–2000).[citation needed] Halpern wanted to create a counter-argument to the growing influence of the many right-wing think tanks and establish a multi-issue organization that would focus on progressive policy development and advocacy. David Callahan, a Fellow at the Century Foundation, and Stephen Heintz, Vice-President of the EastWest Institute, joined Halpern in helping to found Demos. Founding Board members included Arnie Miller, of Isaccson Miller, an executive search firm; David Skaggs, a Colorado Congressman; and Barack Obama, then an Illinois State Senator.[citation needed]

In March 2000, Demos opened its first office in New York with Stephen Heintz as President. In this first year, Demos’ work focused on two issues: (1) economic inequities in America and the growing prosperity gap and (2) increasing civic participation and developing a more inclusive democracy. These two areas continue to be a large part of Demos’ core work. Demos’ work became especially relevant after the 2000 Presidential Election’s voter complications increased concern about the efficacy America’s election systems.

In 2001, Stephen Heintz stepped down and was replaced by Miles Rapoport, Connecticut legislator (1985–94) and Secretary of State (1995–98) with a background in social-change advocacy and community-building.

In March 2014, Rapoport left Demos to become the President of Common Cause.[4] Heather McGhee, formerly the Vice President of Policy and Outreach, is the current President of Demos.[5]


According to their website,[6] Demos currently has three broad goals: 1. Achieving true democracy by reducing the role of money in politics and guaranteeing the freedom to vote 2. Creating pathways to ensure a diverse, expanded middle class in a new, sustainable economy, and 3. Transforming the public narrative to elevate the values of community and racial equity.

Democracy Program

The Democracy Program is Demos’ oldest. It works to strengthen democracy in America through research focused on encouraging civic participation and reducing barriers for voter participation. The program builds on Demos’ core belief that inclusive and active citizen participation is necessary for a strong democracy. Much of their work is focused on securing full implementation of Section 7 of the National Voting Rights Act (NVRA), which mandates that public assistance agencies provide voter registration services, as well as support for state-based campaigns to establish Election Day Registration policies.

Economic Opportunity Program

The Economic Opportunity Program focuses on research and policy ideas to provide new opportunities for low-income families, people of color, and young adults to achieve economic security. The program’s work includes reports on household debt and credit checks, the economic security of young Americans and the elderly, and policies aimed to help community college students complete their degrees.

Sustainable Progress Initiative

Demos’ Sustainable Progress Initiative facilitates creative new research, policy development, and strategic planning to promote a new economy where the priority is to sustain human and natural communities. Recent reports include "Beyond GDP: New Measures for a New Economy," which questions the pervasive narrative linking GDP and market growth to social progress.

Fellows Program

The Demos Fellows Program develop and sustains more than 25 fellows from diverse backgrounds, who produce books, research and commentary to shape a more vibrant and informed public conversation about policy. The Emerging Voices Initiative nurtures the careers of exciting young thought leaders, particularly those of color, to help address the profound lack of diversity among public commentators and to bring urgently needed new ideas into the debate.

PolicyShop Blog

PolicyShop is the official Demos blog, which "strives to offer timely commentary and analysis on a range of national and state policy issues." Frequent topics of commentary include jobs, middle class economic security, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Voter ID laws, campaign finance reform, and energy and sustainability.


Credit Card Regulation

For many years, the Economic Opportunity Program has worked on the issue of credit card debt among low-income households and is considered a pioneer in this field of research. The Federal Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (CARD) was signed into law May 22, 2009, partly as a result of their efforts.

Voter Registration of Low-Income Citizens

The Democracy Program has worked to improve States' compliance with the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), focusing mainly on expanding voter registration opportunities at social service agencies for low income voters. Recently, Demos was part of a settlement in a lawsuit, filed in 2005, alleging Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, Governor Bob Taft, and their predecessors failed to protect the fundamental rights of eligible Ohio voters to cast a meaningful ballot, as required by the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.[7] This settlement is binding and requires the State to provide for uniformity and consistency in Ohio election procedures so that the opportunity to vote can be enjoyed equally by all Ohio citizens.[7]


  • Amelia Warren Tyagi is Board Chair and Heather McGhee is president.

See also


  1. Wasson, Erik (2011-03-07). "Liberal group pushes for $382 billion stimulus". The Hill (newspaper). Retrieved 2012-05-04. A liberal think tank is calling on Congress to embrace a $382 billion stimulus plan to lower unemployment. The call from the liberal Demos group comes as the White House and congressional Democrats and Republicans argue over how greatly to cut this year's spending.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
    • "Time to make the 401k mandatory?". MSN Money. 2011-01-12. Retrieved 2012-05-04. For a useful description of the various ideas, see a study by Robert Hiltonsmith for Demos, a liberal think tank that espouses total overhaul.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
    • Drawbough, Kevin (2011-03-23). "World swap market revamp pauses for a breather". Reuters. Retrieved 2012-05-04. If Geithner backed a wide exemption, it would be a sign that the Obama administration is 'not really messing with the current business model that caused all the trouble,' said Robert Kuttner, an economist at liberal think tank Demos. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Demos About Page". Retrieved 17 March 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Herbert, Bob. "Demos, A Voice of Reason". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 March 2012. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 Rosenfeld, David (8 November 2011). "Righting the Voting Income Gap". Miller-McCune. Retrieved 14 November 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "jpatricktemple" defined multiple times with different content

External links