Denver, CO – Today, 6 major Colorado civic institutions including Metropolitan State University of Denver, Campus Compact of the Mountain West, The Civic Canopy, Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation, History Colorado, and Institute on the Common Good in addition to the National Conference on Citizenship released the Colorado Civic Health Index. The report reveals how residents in the state engage in important civic activities such as voting, volunteering, and interacting with neighbors. This type of engagement is critical because it is linked to the economic and personal health of individuals and communities. Overall, the report finds Colorado’s civic health to be strong, but recognizes varying levels of civic participation across communities.
“Coloradans are some of the most politically and civically engaged citizens in the country,” said Mark Potter, AVP for Academic and Civic Collaboration, MSU Denver. “Yet, this report shows we still have work to do. As a state, we struggle to include all Coloradans equally in civic life. Given the power of strong civic engagement on economic and social health, we must ensure that everyone is welcomed and empowered to participate in their community.”
Compared to the 50 states and the District of Columbia, Colorado ranked among the top when it came to political actions such as voter turnout (6th), always voting in local elections (16th) and contacting public officials (17th). Coloradans are also leaders in informal civic participation like holding membership in a group (9th) and talking about politics with friends or family (8th). However, when some indicators are considered across location of residence, income levels, ethnic/racial backgrounds, and level of educational attainment, varying levels of civic participation in the state becomes clear. For example, voter turnout is 22% higher for residents with a bachelor’s degree compared to those with a high school diploma, and only 3% of African Americans in Denver attended a public meeting compared to 11% of all Coloradans.
“This report reveals civic life isn’t shared equally among all Coloradans, especially those with lower income and education. However, Colorado has a sturdy foundation and the skills to ensure all Coloradans are fully included in the state’s civic life,” said Ilir Zherka, Executive Director of the National Conference on Citizenship. “With the effective leadership from Colorado civic organizations, the state can overcome its civic challenges and strengthen civic life.”
“This report is an important first step in building on our civic strengths and addressing our challenges, especially in developing civic participation among all Colorado residents,” said Mark Potter. “We will continue the work started today by disseminating these findings and activating partner organizations across the state to improve Colorado’s civic health. Maintaining strong civic health is vital to sustaining our state’s prosperity.”
The report data was obtained primarily from the 2012 U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Survey on Voting, Volunteering and Civic Engagement.
Volunteering in Colorado is strong at 33.1% (12th in the nation). However, educational attainment seems to be a big determinant of volunteer rates with a 25% increase in volunteer rates among those with a Bachelor’s degree compared to high school graduates.
Coloradans are in the front of the pack for informal civic participation such as working with neighbors to fix community problems (9th), buying or boycotting a product for social or political reasons (5th), and holding group membership in a civic or community organization (9th).
Colorado is at the top of the list in voter turnout at 70.4% (6th). However, rural Colorado residents are reported to register and vote 10 percentage points higher than their urban counterparts.
Higher levels of educational attainment and income lead to higher levels of almost every measure of civic health in Colorado.
The report also includes calls to action and resources for reshaping the state’s civic environment. Large-scale actions include increasing voter registration; creating electronic means for Coloradans to connect and discuss civic issues; and practicing inclusion when working together to address community issues.