New Report Measures Civic Engagement in America

Despite facing significant challenges, a majority of Americans — nearly 125 million people — did something last year to help solve a problem in their community or support a neighbor in a time of need, a new report from the Corporation for National and Community Service and the National Conference on Citizenship finds.

Civic Life in America: Key Findings on the Civic Health of the Nation, the first-ever federal study of civic engagement, looked at how often Americans engage in a variety of activities, including political action, service, joining or belonging to a group, and connecting to information and current events. The report found that between 2008 and 2009, nearly 58 percent of Americans helped their neighbors at least once a month, and that nearly 1.6 million more Americans did something to serve their communities in 2009 than the year before — the biggest jump in volunteering since 2003.

CNCS's research also found that civic participation does not happen in a vacuum, and that people involved in one area of community activity are more likely to be involved in others. For example, people who talk frequently with their neighbors volunteer at a higher rate than people who don't. Similarly, 78 percent of people who choose to volunteer also vote, compared to about 56 percent of non-volunteers. And people who use the Internet are more likely to get involved in almost every type of activity studied.

The most civically engaged states, according to the report, were Minnesota, Montana, Vermont, Alaska, Utah, and Washington, while the most civically engaged metropolitan areas were Columbus, Ohio; Minneapolis-St. Paul; Portland, Oregon; Seattle; and St. Louis.

"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 CNCS chief executive Patrick A. Corvington. "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 [they] all contribute to the same goal of stronger, more resilient communities."

"First National Assessment on Civic Life in America, Millions Working to Solve Local Problems." Corporation for National and Community Service Press Release 09/16/2010.