The National Conference on Citizenship issues its 2007 Civic Health Index tomorrow. The report (because the 2007 national survey was Internet-based) is not strictly comparable with other prior surveys, but the polling data (supplemented by other polls that were done over this period with consistent methodology) suggests that America’s civic health has deteriorated over the last several years.
They summarize: “Our new report digs below the surface and finds:
“1. 36 million Americans who form our civic core: they are well informed, attend public meetings, work together on community problems, are leaders in clubs and associations, attend religious services, and vote and volunteer. There are largely representative by race, ethnicity and political ideology of the population as a whole and represent a group larger than California, Canada or the populations of 21 states. We want to draw attention to them because they are our civic core and it may be possible to increase their numbers;
“2. More Americans want more opportunities to serve: forty three percent of Americans say they would be more involved in their communities if there were more opportunities; 80 percent say it is important for government agencies to give citizens voice; and 53 percent choose as the best way to solve problems a collaboration among citizens, non-profits and government; citizens clearly want to lead the way in defining and addressing problems; and
“3. The Millennials – those born after 1975 and numbering around 66 million – are emerging as a strong civic force, voting at higher rates than their predecessors, Generation X, and volunteering at high rates. They feel they have the fewest opportunities for civic engagement and express the most demand for it.”
[Note: full disclosure — I was part of the National Advisory Panel working with them to interpret the findings. Also, I’m a bit more skeptical about their second point since in our polling, in the 2000 Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey, respondents are quick to find justifying reasons for why they aren’t more engaged — not enough time, inadequate transportation, not aware of opportunities to get engaged, etc. But whether this expressed “guilt” can be translated into people that will nonetheless find time (taken out of leisure or TV watching or…) to do so, is a much less certain proposition. We could be getting ‘cheap talk.]
Look for the report tomorrow (10/4/07) here.