Civic Life in America: Key Findings on the Civic Health of the Nation

Posted on September 26, 2010

We are pleased to announce the debut of Civic Life in America: Key Findings on the Civic Health of the Nation, the first federal research of its kind that measures how often residents engage in a variety of civic activities, including service, social connectedness, participating in a group, connecting to information and current events, and political action.  This research, done in partnership with the National Conference on Citizenship, was authorized by the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act.

The following are part of today’s release:

Civic Life in America Website

We’ve created a new interactive and user-friendly website at http://www.serve.gov/civic which allows users to retrieve information for any state, the District of Columbia, and 51 of the nation’s largest cities. In addition, the new data is presented for a number of demographics, including age, gender, race and ethnicity, veteran status, and urban/suburban/rural status.  We’ve also created a fun widget to encourage individuals to consider their own civic participation and get more involved which can be found in the press room at http://civic.serve.gov/pressroom.cfm.

Issue Brief
The Issue Brief highlights the national findings that demonstrate the more common forms of civic engagement (voting and volunteering, for example) and less common forms of civic engagement.  It also looks at how certain civic activities correlate with others.  For example, we found that people who volunteer or who communicate with their neighbors are more likely to engage in other civic activities.  You can find the Issue Brief at http://civic.serve.gov/assets/resources/IssueBrief.pdf.

Resources
Based on key findings from the research, we have created new resources to help your organization or community strengthen civic life.  For this first release, we are providing specific resources in three key areas: informal service, social connectedness, and Internet use.  You can find these resources at http://nationalserviceresources.org/civic-resources.

Press Release and Fact Sheet

Click here for the press release (http://www.nationalservice.gov/about/newsroom/releases_detail.asp?tbl_pr_id=1871) and click here for the fact sheet (http://civic.serve.gov/assets/resources/CHAFactSheet.pdf).

Key Findings
In tough times, Americans are solving problems in their own communities.

·         Between 2008 and 2009, almost 58 percent of Americans directly helped their neighbors at least once a month.

·         Last year saw the greatest spike in volunteering since 2003, with almost 1.6 million more Americans serving their communities.

The Internet is helping to advance civic participation in America.

·         People who have access to the Internet in their homes and people who use the Internet wherever they have opportunity are more likely to get involved in almost every type of activity studied in the assessment.

·         Adults who use the Internet regularly were 20 percentage points more likely to vote in the 2008 election than adults who did not use the Internet.

Creating community impact doesn’t happen in a vacuum—it’s part of a reinforcing cycle.

·         People who are involved in one area of community activity are more likely to be involved in others.

·         Eating dinner with your family, talking to your neighbors, or just keeping in touch with people online all are associated with higher levels of participation in other aspects of civic life.

·         Citizens who talk with their neighbors frequently 33 percent also volunteer, compared to only 16 percent of people who do not talk often with their neighbors.

·         Likewise, 69 percent of adults who frequently eat dinner with other members of their household voted in the 2008 election compared to only 43 percent of those who do not regularly eat dinner with others in their household.

Demographics indicate that veterans are generally more involved in their communities and more likely to engage in most types of political behavior than non-veterans.

·         Veterans are more likely to work with their neighbors to solve community problems and to participate in community groups than non-veterans.

·         In the 2008 election, 71 percent of veterans voted compared to 57 percent of non-veterans. Veterans are also more likely than non-veterans to have participated in other non-electoral forms of political activities.

We hope you find this research helpful as we work to strengthen civic life in America.  If you have any questions, please e-mail sjennings@cns.gov.


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