Hartford, CT – A coalition of groups – including the Secretary of the State, Everyday Democracy, the National Conference on Citizenship and DataHaven launched the 2016 Civic Health Index Report today. The survey evaluates the depth of citizen engagement through a variety of indicators such as voting, volunteering and other forms of community involvement.
Connecticut Report in the News
“Report: Fewer In CT Volunteering, Voting But More Eating Dinner At Home” via the Hartford Courant
Connecticut’s Civic Participation Increases With Income via CT News Junkie
“State ranks high in civic spirit” via Stamford Courant
The report gives Connecticut relatively high marks compared to the national average for volunteering (29.1% vs. 26.2%) and charitable giving (57.9% vs. 50.7%) in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Residents in Connecticut are also more likely than the rest of the country to have attended a public meeting (10.5% vs. 8.7%) or worked with neighbors to fix or improve something in the community (9.2% vs. 8.2%) during those years.
However, there are areas that reveal a stark need for improvement and subjects that are considerable cause for concern.
Deep inequalities in income in Connecticut have had a negative impact on the civic engagement of people living in those communities. The report notes: “The stark contrast between the wealthy and the poor in our state the so-called Two Connecticuts is as evident in statistics on voting behavior as it is in educational opportunity. Despite a generally higher level of educational attainment in our state, people who are poor or who have lower levels of formal education participate less in our government at all levels. This continues to be the primary challenge for the state, one that the data and findings in this report corroborate.”
In addition to socio-economic issues, the report raises question about how to engage particular demographics in political life. Young adults (18-to-24-years-old) in particular show lower levels of political and civic engagement. The report finds, “In 2013, young adults were significantly less likely than others to attend a public meeting (2.1% of adults 18 to 24 years compared to 11.8% of all other adults) or to give to charity (23.9% of adults 18 to 24 years and 62.5% of adults 25 years and older). Meanwhile, older people were much more likely to engage civically. Of the Silent Generation, 18.6% had attended a public meeting, and 70.2% donated to charity.” The report also notes that young adults were less likely to register and cast votes.
More work must be done to engage other communities as well. For example, voter turnout in the Latino community (47% in the 2012 presidential election) is considerably lower than among whites (65.8%) and African-Americans (62.2%). However, the report does identify programs that are working to increase participation, such as the Hartford Vota Coalition’s Latino Voter Engagement Project. An evaluation of the project found that 64 percent of the canvass participants voted in the 2012 Presidential Election and that those who were canvassed twice voted at a rate of 21% higher than the others. In addition, voter turnout among those who were part of the canvass was 9.1% higher than overall turnout in the same voting districts and 6.7% higher than the citywide turnout rate.
In 2011, Connecticut released its first Civic Health Index. The project has grown nationally to more than 30 communities nationwide.
The findings of the report are based on an analysis of the Census Current Population Survey, as well as other locally-available data sources, by the National Conference on Citizenship, DataHaven, and other partners involved in this project. The National Conference on Citizenship is a congressionally chartered organization dedicated to strengthening civic life in America.
Secretary Merrill said, “In many ways this report is a challenge to all of us. There are models at work throughout our state that should be replicated. There are also needs in a number of our communities that must be met. We are determined to increase civic engagement and democratic participation and this report will help us focus our energies.”
Martha McCoy, Executive Director of Everyday Democracy, said, “Knowing the state of Connecticut’s civic health can help us gauge how well our communities are prepared to deal with economic adversity. Two studies commissioned by the National Conference on Citizenship and conducted by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University in 2011 and 2012 found that communities with stronger civic health are more resilient when hardship hits, have more effective governance, and are better places to live.”
Jeff Coates, Director for Research and Evaluation at the National Conference on Citizenship said, “The Connecticut Civic Health Index services as an important tool for innovation and exploration to get people more involved in their democracy. This report reveals Connecticut’s civic health strengths and weaknesses. Working together, I know Connecticut residents can leverage their strong volunteering and neighborhood networks towards greater community action and an even better civic life.”
Mark Abraham, Executive Director of DataHaven, said, “This report is a measure of whether Connecticut residents feel included in the workings society and government key factors that along with other determinants such as income and health are among the major drivers of well-being and happiness at a population-wide level. We were pleased that we could supplement the national data from the Census with new neighborhood-level information from the DataHaven Community Wellbeing Survey’s recent interviews of over 16,000 representative adults throughout Connecticut. The 2016 Civic Health Index report and future work by the partners involved will enable local communities to have the information that they need to effectively promote civic health.”
The majority of the data used within this report were collected through two supplements to the Current Population Survey: the Volunteer Supplement and the Civic Engagement Supplement. The Current Population Survey is a monthly survey of about 60,000 households (approximately 100,000 adults), conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau on behalf of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The selected supplements collect data on the volunteering, voting, and civic activities of adults age 16 and older for volunteering and 18 and older for the civic supplement. Volunteers are considered individuals who performed unpaid volunteer activities through or for an organization at any point during the 12-month period (from September 1st of the prior year through the survey week in September of the survey year).