First National Assessment on Civic Life in America Shows Millions Working to Solve Local Problems

Washington, DC (September 16, 2010)- While facing many challenges, Americans are stepping forward to participate in civic life to solve problems and strengthen their communities, according to Civic Life in America: Key Findings on the Civic Health of the Nation released today by the Corporation for National and Community Service and the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC).

The Civic Life in America research found that the majority of Americans – nearly 125 million – turned toward problems and helped support their neighbors in times of need. It measures how often Americans engage in a variety of activities including political action, service, social connectedness, belonging to a group, and connection to information and current events. Whether volunteering or helping a neighbor find a job, Americans are engaging in activities that help build stronger and more civically involved communities, according to the assessment.
“This is an all hands on deck moment for our nation that requires all of us to get involved in whatever way we can to make a difference,” said Patrick A. Corvington, the Corporation’s CEO. “What this study shows is that Americans are tilting toward problems instead of away from them, and that their participation in civic life may come in different ways, but all contribute to the same goal of stronger, more resilient communities.”
The research suggests that civic participation does not happen in a vacuum – people involved in one area of community activity are more likely to be involved in others. Of citizens who frequently talk with their neighbors, about 33 percent also volunteer, compared to about 16 percent of people who do not talk with their neighbors. Likewise, people who volunteer are also more likely to vote, with over 78 percent of volunteers voting compared to only about 55.5 percent of non-volunteers.Civic Life in America provides local and national leaders with the tools to better identify opportunities to increase and sustain diverse engagement and apply resources to meet community needs.
“The most powerful force in American democracy is the connection between and among citizens,” said David B. Smith, NCoC’s Executive Director. “As technology becomes a larger part of our daily lives, especially among members of the Millennial generation, the correlation between Internet usage and civic engagement is a promising sign of the possibilities for further increasing community action.”
Authorized under the landmark and bi-partisan Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, the Civic Health Assessment is the first-ever federal research on civic engagement.The data were mostly collected through the Current Population Survey, with about 100,000 respondents answering the survey in a year. The research 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 four major indicators: volunteering with an organization, working with neighbors, participating in groups, and voting in the 2008 election.
In future years, the Corporation and NCoC will continue to refine and develop measures of the capacity for individuals within communities to come together to address the nation’s most pressing problems.

Highlights of 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.
* Of 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.
Related Resources:
First National Assessment on Civic Life in America Shows Millions Working to Solve Local Problems
Civic Life in America