Batten Surveys Summary (12pgs)


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Hampton Roads Center for Civic Engagement's "Batten Surveys": A Regional Civic Capital Assessment 2008 - 2009 "Civic engagement is more than just attending a meeting or a public hearing. It's not a passive concept; it's an active concept. It's when people actively engage in their neighborhood or community either by doing something or really engaging in the thinking around doing something that allows them to create some positive change." -Chris Gates, Executive Director, Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement

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Batten Surveys Summary (12pgs)

  1. 1. The Batten Surveys: A Regional Civic Capital Assessment 2008-2009
  2. 2. The Hampton Roads Center for Civic Engagement gives special thanks to Jane P. Batten for her generous support of this project. The mission of the Center is to support sustainable deliberative democracy in Hampton Roads and to connect public decision making with civil dialogue and the informed judgment of the region’s citizens. Board of Directors: Program Fellows: Jim Babcock Joshua G. Behr Chris Bonney Carolyn Caywood Mary Bunting Barbara L. Clark Minette Cooper Michael Dingerson Louis Guy Kevin Fairley Clyde Hoey, Ramesh Kapoor Vice-Chairman and Treasurer Ed Maroney Quentin Kidd Nicole Auer McGee Henry Light Ken Wheeler Jim Oliver, Chairman Staff: Bob O’Neill Vivian Paige Betsy McBride, Executive Director Anita Poston, Counsel Susan Sharp, Administrative Director Suzanne Puryear, Secretary Todd Solomon, Program Director Roger Richman Webmaster: Mike Rau John Rowe Graphic Design: Sue Curcio Alvin Schexnider Bert Schmidt Caitlin Dana Printing: Rocket Direct Ray Taylor Sanford Wanner Hampton Roads Center for Civic Engagement 5200 Hampton Blvd. Norfolk, VA 23508 Phone: 757.889.9359
  3. 3. The Batten Surveys: A Regional “Civic Capital” Assessment Taken together the surveys attempt to assess the civic capital of the region. This “capital” is the civic values, skills and infrastructure needed for citizens to work together to define and shape the region’s quality of life. For self-government to be sustained, citizens must be informed on the public issues of their time and take their turns at active citizenship. All citizens, including those serving in elected and appointed positions, must accept their ultimate responsibility to provide for the practices of democracy. There are critical roles for all. And there must be a shared belief that citizens can be co-producers of the ideas and strategies that define the future of our region. We become regional citizens as we work together on the issues of concern for the entire region. We offer this baseline assessment to begin a regional conversation about where we are and if this is where we choose to be. Summary: Are We Participating? • The majority of Hampton Roads citizens have been The Batten Surveys Youth Focus Group actively involved in their community during the past year. A group of youth leaders, ages 17 to 22 years old, was • The majority of Hampton Roads citizens are showing invited to join a conversation about civic engagement a commitment to civic life. and roles for citizens held at WHRO on March 12, • The majority are participating in one or more stages of 2009. Participants described civic engagement as being the political process. involved in the community, taking responsibility for the • The percentage of adults who say they have not been community and its people, and being knowledgeable and actively involved in their community during the past aware of important issues in the community. year is extremely small, perhaps as few as one-in-fifty Several had started organizations within their persons. communities or schools in response to needs. As activists, they did not feel that most public policy problems are While Hampton Roads residents are widely affiliated too big or too complicated for citizen engagement. They with civic, social, and political networks, it is not clear how said that elected officials have to reach out and then connected these networks are to each other or to larger show citizens that they are listening. But youth also have organizational structures, how connected they are to other the responsibility to be prepared to respond and to be similar groups throughout the region, or whether the knowledgeable about important public issues. nature of their interests has any connection to discussion of issues of regional importance throughout the Hampton Summary: Roads area. The Batten Civic Health Telephone Survey How Are We Informing Ourselves? This survey was conducted between March 2 and 9, • Almost two-thirds of adults interviewed said they 2009 among a representative sample of 1,997 adult follow news about local government and public residents of the sixteen communities of Hampton Roads, affairs either somewhat or very closely. Most of the including: the cities of Chesapeake, Franklin, Hampton, remainder say they pay attention to issues they believe Newport News, Norfolk, Poquoson, Portsmouth, Suffolk touch their lives. and Virginia Beach; and Gloucester, Isle of Wight, • Only about one-in-ten adults say they pay no attention Southampton, Surry, James City and York Counties. to news about local government and public affairs. • Just over sixty-percent of those interviewed believe that there is a reliable source of information about issues facing the region. The Batten Surveys: A Regional “Civic Capital” Assessment 1
  4. 4. Do We Trust the Institutions Important for Can We Work Together on Regional Issues? Our Public Work? • The vast majority of adults interviewed said they • Citizens show a moderate level of trust in municipal are interested in working with other people to find employees “to do what is right,” but less for local and solutions to the challenges they believe are the region’s state elected governmental representatives. highest priorities. • Citizen trust in the media “to do what is right” is less • The majority of Hampton Roads citizens do not than confident. believe their local municipality invites citizen input. • Overall, trust in all of these institutions is just barely on the positive end of the trust spectrum. Where Can We Work Together on Regional Issues? Only about a third of respondents, however, believe Citizens have a tentative, perhaps even slightly there are currently “safe places” where they can go to skeptical stance regarding elected governmental discuss problems of regional scope and work with others representatives at the local and state level and the print to find solutions to these problems. For some, the first media, but are less skeptical towards school boards, inclination is to go to a local or state government office. television, and government employees. Existing trust levels of government representatives may impact that location, along with the complication of local What Do We Say Is the Most Important Regional Issue? entities and regional issues. There does not appear to be any single “regional” Asked about the trustworthiness of a variety of issue that galvanizes much more than a quarter of the specific possible sponsors of regional discussions, study region’s adults. When asked to name the most pressing participants were again fragmented in their thinking. Two single issue facing the Hampton Roads region, study potential sponsors, churches and colleges/universities, participants mentioned hundreds of different thoughts. were accorded the greatest trust, followed by “a nonprofit Just over half could be sorted into three broad categories: organization focused on civic engagement,” public libraries, the YMCA and the League of Women Voters. • Just over a quarter of citizens believe “the economy” is the biggest issue facing the region. • About one-in-five Hampton Roads citizens believe “transportation” is the biggest issue facing the region • About one-in-ten Hampton Roads adults believe education is the region’s leading issue. Chart 1. Community Participation (Last Twelve Months) Civic & service clubs 17 Civic & service clubs Work-related 23 Wo rk-related Pu blic aaffairs Public ffairs 27 Social 29 So cial Arts & culture 30 Arts & cu lture Education 35 Educa tion Support groups 36 Suppo rt groups Athletic/recreation 38 Athletic/recreation Charity 52 Char ity Religion 70 Re lig ion 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 %t Participation - Last Twelve Months %t Parti cipati on - La st T we lve M on ths 2 The Batten Surveys: A Regional “Civic Capital” Assessment
  5. 5. Chart 2. Civic Participation (Last Twelve Months) Donated to local Donate d to lo cal 34 political causes pol itical cau se Attended neighborhood Atten ded neig hbo rhood 37 meeting me eting Discussed issues with Discu ssed is su es wi th 37 strangers stran ge rs Worked with others to Wo rked wi th oth ers t o 38 solve problems solve probl em s Donated to Donate d to 77 charity/service ch arity /service Discussed is su es with Discu ssed issues wi th 82 neighbors ne ighbo rs 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 %t Participation - Last Twelve Months %t Parti cipati on - La st T we lve M on ths Chart 3. Political Action (Last Twelve Months) Attendedlo cal Attended local 20 government meeting gover nment meeting Expressed opinion Expresse d opinion 29 using on line me dia using online media Contacted lo cal govt to Con tacted local govt to 35 expressoopinion express pinion Showedsupport for Showed support for 40 candidate/issue candi date/issue Visited municipal Web Vis ited mun icipal W eb 70 site or TV channel site or TV chann el Voted 92 Voted 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 %t%t articipa tion - La st Twelve Months P Participation - Last Tw elve M onths The Batten Surveys: A Regional “Civic Capital” Assessment 3
  6. 6. Chart 4. How Closely Follow News of Local Government and Public Affairs Somewh at Somewhat clo sely on all closely on all issu es issues 37% 37% Mo stly thos e of Mostly those of my city/county my city/county 12% Very Very closelyon clos ely on 12% all issues all issu es 26% Mo stly thos e Mostly those 26% affecting my Don'tpay Don’t pay affe cting my life and work attention to life 12% work and attention to govt/public govt/publ ic 12% affairs news 13% affair s news 13% Chart 5. Reliable Sources of Information About Issues Facing Hampton Roads Region Newspaper 17 Newspa per Television 11 Telev ision Government 6 Government Media (unspecified) 6 Medi a (unspe cified) Internet 4 Intern et Personal contacts 2 Persona l co ntacts Radio 1 Radio Civic groups 1 Civic groups Church/Bible/God 1 Church /Bible/God Other/Don’t know 13 Other /Don' t know There are no reliable sources 26 Ther e are no reliable sour ces Don’t know if there are reliable reliab le Don't know if ther e are sources 13 sources 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 % Mentions % Mentions 4 The Batten Surveys: A Regional “Civic Capital” Assessment
  7. 7. Chart 6. Average Trust Ratings for Institutions Local governmentgovern m ent Loc al employees 6.50 employ ees Local television news 6.34 Loc al television news Local school board 6.11 Loc al school board Local daily newspaper 5.84 Lo cal daily new spaper Loc al elected Local elected representatives 5.65 represe ntatives Elected s tate Elected state representatives 5.63 represe ntatives 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Low Trust t High Trust Lo w Trus Hig h Tru st Chart 7. Regional Priorities Economy 28 Ec onomy Transportation 21 Trans por tation Education 10 Educa tion Crime 4 Cr im e Taxes 2 Ta xe s Military 2 M ilitary job s Environment 1 En vironment Racial reconciliation 1 Ra cial reconc iliation Healthcare 1 He alth care Growth/sprawl 1 Growth /sprawl Other 23 Other Don’t know Don't know 6 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 % Mentions % Mentions The Batten Surveys: A Regional “Civic Capital” Assessment 5
  8. 8. Chart 8. Interest in Working with Others to Find Solutions to Regional Issues Not at all Don’t know Not at all Don't know interested 2% interested 2% Very interested Very interested 11% 11% 26% 26% Not very Not very interested interested 18% 18% Somewhat Somewhat interested interested 43% 43% Chart 9. Does Your Local Government Invite Citizen Input? Don't know Don’t know 2% 2% Yes Yes 36% 36% NoNo 62% 62% 6 The Batten Surveys: A Regional “Civic Capital” Assessment
  9. 9. Chart 10. Trustworthy Sponsors of Citizens Discussions of Regional Issues (Prompted) Churches 22 Churches Colleges/universities 20 Co lleges/u niver sities Non -profit focuse d on Non-profit focused on 17 civic engagement civ ic engag eme nt Public libraries 16 Publi c libra ries YMCA 5 YMCA Leag ue of Women League of Women 4 Voters Voters Other 6 Other Don’t know Don't know 10 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 % Mentions % Mentions Summary: The Batten Survey Interviews During late 2008 and early 2009, Center friends and Process board members conducted interviews of many individuals All interview groups said they expect fair, open, engaged in the public work of the region, either as transparent and accountable government that operates appointed or elected officials or as civic leaders. Each with integrity and competence. There was mention that interview included the same questions, but not everyone training to increase competence around civic engagement answered every question. processes is necessary and that dedicated resources and public involvement policies will be needed to increase Information and Communication public involvement. The matched set – the citizens’ right to be informed Civic engagement around the big strategic decisions and the duty to be informed echoed through the was called for. An elected official said civic engagement interviews with elected and appointed officials and with should be used “often and continuously” and another said other civic leaders. A citizen asked to be trusted with there is a “need to get public input from day one and not good and bad news while another worried that bad news after decisions have been made.” might be used irresponsibly against officials. Trust and the The duty to be supportive when appropriate sharing of information were linked by many interviewees. was added to the often-mentioned duty to speak up. All groups said that citizens have a right to be listened Civility and respect were called for along with greater to and also be accountable for using “facts” and providing understanding of decision making processes. All of the “honest input.” groups mentioned the misunderstandings that follow the There was not any mention of any problem from unrealized expectation that citizen input always changes getting too much information or any specifics about a decision. Officials and citizens said they worried about information gaps. All forms of new information the distrust that comes when citizens conclude that they technology were suggested as promising tools for more have not been heard when a policy decision is not aligned sharing of information. with public sentiment. More than one interviewee said that more communication after a public decision would increase overall public understanding. The Batten Surveys: A Regional “Civic Capital” Assessment 7
  10. 10. Those Engaged An appointed official said that what is needed is “Willing citizens and open government.” A civic leader was also succinct about what is needed, “First, a receptive attitude; if that does not exist, don’t bother with the rest.” Trust The oft-repeated cure for distrust was more information, more communication and more work together. In other words, true civic engagement with good information and timely communication. Training There were calls for training for civic engagement and also reports of receiving training. A review of the comments describing training demonstrates a broad interpretation of what is considered public involvement training and, by extension, what is considered to be public involvement. What Do You Think is the Most Important Public Issue for the Region? Three regional issues dominated “the most important public issue” list. They were transportation, regionalism and the economy- in that order. Of the three most frequently mentioned regional issues, elected officials and other citizen leaders ranked transportation highest of the three. The economy was the highest ranked of the three top issues by appointed officials. Regionalism, the second most frequently mentioned regional issue overall, was not ranked as important by elected officials. Regional Civic Engagement Report Card In the same spirit as the maxim “all politics is local,” interviewees gave the highest average regional grade “B” to the civic engagement efforts of their own groups. Effort more removed, i.e. “civic engagement in regional issues,” received the lowest grade “D.” Regional Report Card Interview Question Grade B How would you grade the amount of effort you or your group spends in civic engagement? C+ How would you grade your community’s overall civic engagement? C+ How would you grade your local government’s overall civic engagement? C- How would you grade private businesses in overall civic engagement? D How would you grade overall civic engagement in regional issues? 8 The Batten Surveys: A Regional “Civic Capital” Assessment
  11. 11. Most Important Hampton Roads Regional Issues (Interview Question #18) Transportation Regionalism Economy Education Infrastructure Civic Engagement Competiveness Quality of Life Environment Water Military Presence Public Health Trust Citizens' Role in the Most Important Hampton Roads Regional Issues (Interview Question #19) Educate themselves Participate (e.g. attend forums, online discussions) Take action (e.g. letters to editor, email local and regional govt. and groups) Create a regional advocacy group Demand better civic engagement Lobby elected officials To view and download the complete Batten Surveys Reports, go to The Batten Surveys: A Regional “Civic Capital” Assessment 9