2011 Civic Life in America: Key Findings on the Civic Health of the Nation

Posted by on October 17, 2011

Civic engagement high among boomers

Between 2008 and 2010, a majority of Americans were civically active in a variety of ways, working with others to improve their communities, according to the 2011 Civic Life in America: Key Findings on the Civic Health of the Nation research recently released by the Corporation for National and Community Service and the National Conference on Citizenship.

With nearly nine in 10 American households sitting down to dinner together frequently, more than half discussing politics at least a few times a month, and a third actively participating in groups or organizations, civic life in America continues to be dynamic.

In partnership with CNCS and NCoC, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau collect most of the data for Civic Life in America through supplements to the Current Population Survey. The CPS Civic Engagement Supplement is designed to gauge the health of America’s communities by measuring how often residents engage in a variety of civic activities.

The survey also helps civic leaders identify ways to strengthen the participation of citizens in making a positive impact in their communities.

A majority of Americans participated in many of the activities contained in three of the five civic engagement categories measured in the report: political action, connecting to information/current events, and social connectedness. More than a third were active across several of the activities in the remaining two categories: service and volunteering and participating in an organized group.

The research suggests that civic engagement is a reinforcing cycle. Citizens who participate in one area of civic engagement, like volunteering, are more likely to get involved in groups, contact public officials, or work with neighbors. In addition, the results show evidence similar to what researchers see across the “volunteer lifecycle”—the arc of civic involvement that tends to increase as citizens feel a deeper connection to their communities through personal networks, their workplace, and their children’s schools.

Other key findings include that Americans remain civically engaged long into their lives in a pivotal number of ways.  Older Adults (age 65 and older) ranked #1 in voting (58.9%), church or religious involvement (22.7%), service or civic group participation (10.4%), and doing favors for neighbors frequently (20.1%).

Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) ranked #1 in discussing politics frequently (38.5%), volunteering (29.3%), and serving as a group officer or committee member (12.5%).

Generation X (born 1965-1981) ranked #1 in the category of frequently eating dinner with household members (90.9%), participation in school groups (19.5%), and participation in sports or recreation groups (13.6%).

In addition, the research also provides data on civic participation on the national level, all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and 51 of the largest metro areas in the U.S. The rankings of the cities and states were based on five major categories:  political action; connecting to information/current events; social connectedness; service; and participating in a group.

Read the full report here.


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