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Civic Engagement
Tom Miller, Ph.D.
President, National Research Center
Monday, October 8, 2007
“Civic engagement means working to
make a difference in the civic life of our
communities and developing the
combination o...
Outcomes for Communities with
Strong Civic Engagement
• Government is “more effective and more
innovative”
• Less crime
• ...
Outcomes of Civic Engagement for
Local Government
• Greater levels of trust in local government
officials*
• Increased sup...
Civic Engagement on the Wane in
American Cities
• Decreased levels of voting
• Reduced levels of volunteerism
• Less time ...
What can the National Citizen
Survey Tell Us about the current
status of Civic Engagement in
America?
Brief Background on NCS
• ICMA/NRC initiative
– Low-cost turnkey omnibus citizen survey
service
– Normative comparisons
• ...
What kinds of questions does
The NCSTM
ask?
• Quality of life in the community
• Quality of local government services
• Re...
How is The NCS™ Conducted?
• Mail, phone, Web*
• 1,200 randomly selected households (HH)
• Person within HH selected witho...
Civic Engagement Analysis
• Based on over 100,000 completed surveys
from 190 jurisdictions
• Objectives:
– Assess current ...
Outcomes
Public Trust
Recycling
Quality of Local Government Services
Sense of Community
Community as a Place to Live
Measu...
Electoral Participation
Indicators of Electoral Participation
Percent of
Residents
Registered to vote 78%
Voted in last el...
Civic Attentiveness
Indicators of Civic Attentiveness
Percent of
Residents
Read jurisdiction newsletter 89%
Watched a meet...
Volunteerism
Residents Volunteering
in 12 Months Prior to Survey
At Least
Once
44%
Never
56%
Participation in Community Life
Community Amenity
Percent of
Residents
Visited a public library or used the
library servic...
Residents with Higher Levels of
Civic Engagement tended to be:
• Middle-aged or older
– (lowest levels in 18-34 year olds)...
Relationship of Civic Engagement
to Outcomes
Electoral
Participation
Volunteerism
Public Meeting
Attendance
Participation ...
Relationship of Civic Engagement
to Outcomes
Electoral
Participation
Volunteerism
Public Meeting
Attendance
Participation ...
Relationship of Civic Engagement
to Outcomes
Electoral
Participation
Volunteerism
Public Meeting
Attendance
Participation ...
Relationship of Civic Engagement
to Outcomes
Electoral
Participation
Volunteerism
Public Meeting
Attendance
Participation ...
Relationship of Civic Engagement
to Outcomes
Electoral
Participation
Volunteerism
Public Meeting
Attendance
Participation ...
Civic Engagement Levels by
Population and Income
Population
Size
Median Annual
Household Income Public Trust Recycling
Qua...
Civic Engagement and Older
Residents
• Older residents were, in general, less civically engaged
than younger counterparts:...
New to the NCSTM
• Ratings of:
– community opportunities to participate in local
government matters
– likelihood of commun...
• “Democracy is more than a form of government;
it is primarily a mode of associated living, of a
conjoint communicated ex...
Relationship of Civic Engagement
to Community and Government-
level Outcomes
• Volunteerism, participation in community li...
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Civic Engagement

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Communities and Strong Civic Engagement. Presented at the 2007 International City/County Management Association (ICMA) 2007. Learn about the National Citizen Survey here: http://www.n-r-c.com/survey-products/the-national-citizen-survey/.

Published in: Government & Nonprofit
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Civic Engagement

  1. 1. Civic Engagement Tom Miller, Ph.D. President, National Research Center Monday, October 8, 2007
  2. 2. “Civic engagement means working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference. It means promoting the quality of life in a community, through both political and non- political processes.” Civic Responsibility and Higher Education, edited by Thomas Ehrlich, published by Oryx Press, 2000.
  3. 3. Outcomes for Communities with Strong Civic Engagement • Government is “more effective and more innovative” • Less crime • Less poverty • More employment • Better and more sustainable policies • More frequent resident cooperation Adapted from: ASPA Task Force on Civic Education in the 21st Century and Putnam, R.B. Bowling Alone, America’s Declining Social Capital. Journal of Democracy, 1995.
  4. 4. Outcomes of Civic Engagement for Local Government • Greater levels of trust in local government officials* • Increased support for community-wide solutions recommended by elected council members* • Re-election of council members* • Collective self-restraint in the face of community need** *Rahn and Rudolph 2005 ** Tyler and Deguey, 1995
  5. 5. Civic Engagement on the Wane in American Cities • Decreased levels of voting • Reduced levels of volunteerism • Less time spent on activities with neighbors The American Democracy Project: Civic Engagement, Higher Education and the 21st Century. A cooperative project of the AASCU and New York Times “By almost every measure, Americans, direct disengagement in politics and government has fallen steadily and sharply over the last generation.” Putnam, R.B. Bowling Alone, America’s Declining Social Capital. Journal of Democracy, 1995, page 2.
  6. 6. What can the National Citizen Survey Tell Us about the current status of Civic Engagement in America?
  7. 7. Brief Background on NCS • ICMA/NRC initiative – Low-cost turnkey omnibus citizen survey service – Normative comparisons • Primary purposes of the survey – To track resident perspectives about quality of community characteristics and amenities – To evaluate local government and resident participation in local activities – To create a performance score card
  8. 8. What kinds of questions does The NCSTM ask? • Quality of life in the community • Quality of local government services • Resident participation in local activities, including civic engagement • Policy options • Community demographics
  9. 9. How is The NCS™ Conducted? • Mail, phone, Web* • 1,200 randomly selected households (HH) • Person within HH selected without bias • Average response rate = 39% – across more than 130 administrations • Sample reweighted
  10. 10. Civic Engagement Analysis • Based on over 100,000 completed surveys from 190 jurisdictions • Objectives: – Assess current level of civic engagement in American cities – Examine relationships among civic engagement and government/community outcomes
  11. 11. Outcomes Public Trust Recycling Quality of Local Government Services Sense of Community Community as a Place to Live Measures of Civic Engagement Electoral Participation Volunteerism Public Meeting Attendance Participation in Community Life (Library and Parks & Rec) Respondent and Community Characteristics
  12. 12. Electoral Participation Indicators of Electoral Participation Percent of Residents Registered to vote 78% Voted in last election 70% Likely to vote in next election 81% Said “yes” to all 3 above 61%
  13. 13. Civic Attentiveness Indicators of Civic Attentiveness Percent of Residents Read jurisdiction newsletter 89% Watched a meeting of local elected officials or other local public meeting on cable television 47% Attended a meeting of local elected officials or other local public meeting on cable television 28%
  14. 14. Volunteerism Residents Volunteering in 12 Months Prior to Survey At Least Once 44% Never 56%
  15. 15. Participation in Community Life Community Amenity Percent of Residents Visited a public library or used the library services 73% Used a recreation centers 56% Participated in a recreation program or activity 54% Visited a parks 85%
  16. 16. Residents with Higher Levels of Civic Engagement tended to be: • Middle-aged or older – (lowest levels in 18-34 year olds) • Non-Hispanic White • Live in households with higher incomes • Own their homes • Live in detached housing units • Live in regions other than the South
  17. 17. Relationship of Civic Engagement to Outcomes Electoral Participation Volunteerism Public Meeting Attendance Participation in Community Life (Library and Parks & Rec) Public Trust Recycling Quality of Local Govt Services Sense of Community Community as a Place to Live
  18. 18. Relationship of Civic Engagement to Outcomes Electoral Participation Volunteerism Public Meeting Attendance Participation in Community Life (Library and Parks & Rec) Recycling Public Trust Quality of Local Govt Services Sense of Community Community as a Place to Live
  19. 19. Relationship of Civic Engagement to Outcomes Electoral Participation Volunteerism Public Meeting Attendance Participation in Community Life (Library and Parks & Rec) Quality of Local Government Services Public Trust Sense of Community Recycling Community as a Place to Live
  20. 20. Relationship of Civic Engagement to Outcomes Electoral Participation Volunteerism Public Meeting Attendance Participation in Community Life (Library and Parks & Rec) Sense of Community Public Trust Quality of Local Govt Services Recycling Community as a Place to Live
  21. 21. Relationship of Civic Engagement to Outcomes Electoral Participation Volunteerism Public Meeting Attendance Participation in Community Life (Library and Parks & Rec) Community as a Place to Live Public Trust Quality of Local Govt Services Recycling Sense of Community
  22. 22. Civic Engagement Levels by Population and Income Population Size Median Annual Household Income Public Trust Recycling Quality of Local Government Services Sense of Community Community as a Place to Live 25,000 $35,000 Relatively Low  56.2 15.4 53.8 47.8 61.0 25,000 $35,000 Relatively High 56.2 21.8 55.7 53.7 66.8 25,000 $55,000 Relatively Low  61.1 18.1 60.6 52.4 68.4 25,000 $55,000 Relatively High 61.1 24.5 62.5 58.3 74.2 120,000 $35,000 Relatively Low  55.6 17.7 53.3 46.9 61.0 120,000 $35,000 Relatively High 55.6 24.1 55.2 52.8 66.9 120,000 $55,000 Relatively Low  60.6 20.4 60.1 51.5 68.5 120,000 $55,000 Relatively High 60.6 26.8 62.0 57.4 74.3 Predicted OutcomesCharacteristics Civic Engagement Levels
  23. 23. Civic Engagement and Older Residents • Older residents were, in general, less civically engaged than younger counterparts: – They volunteered less – Participated in community life less often (except for use of recreation centers) – Reported lower rates of attendance or watching public meetings – But they voted more often! Huge untapped community resource!
  24. 24. New to the NCSTM • Ratings of: – community opportunities to participate in local government matters – likelihood of community residents cooperating with requests of city officials for community problem solving • Neighborliness • Participation in: – civic groups – religious or spiritual activities – informal service to friends and neighbors • Visits to jurisdiction web site
  25. 25. • “Democracy is more than a form of government; it is primarily a mode of associated living, of a conjoint communicated experience.” John Dewey “The performance of our democratic institutions depends in measurable ways upon social capital.” Robert Putnam The American Democracy Project: Civic Engagement, Higher Education and the 21st Century. A cooperative project of the AASCU and New York Times
  26. 26. Relationship of Civic Engagement to Community and Government- level Outcomes • Volunteerism, participation in community life, community problem solving and newsletter readership all had weak but significant positive relationships with all outcomes • Electoral participation had positive correlations with all outcomes except public trust • Meeting attendance had positive a relationship with community ratings but a negative relationship with governmental ratings • Watching meetings had negative relationships with all but one outcome (sense of community) –
  27. 27. Thank you!

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