Overview

The opportunity and challenge of faith-based civic engagement.

The opportunity and challenge of diversity

Community connectedness linked to happiness and vibrant communities

Dimensions of social capital

Variation between communities/community analysis

Survey design, methodology, and other housekeeping details

Raw data available from Roper Center

Table 1
Communities Surveyed, Geography of Area, and Sample Size

Table 2
Effective Sample Sizes and 95% Confidence Intervals for Percentage Estimates

Legend

Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey  
Executive Summary [1]



NOTE: THIS REPORT CONTAINS PRELIMINARY RESULTS (2001) OF BENCHMARK SURVEY. ACTIVE RESEARCH ON ALL ASPECTS OF THIS SURVEY ARE CONTINUING AND THESE RESULTS SHOULD NOT BE CONSIDERED CONCLUSIVE. CONCLUSIVE RESULTS WILL BE REPORTED HERE WHEN THEY BECOME AVAILABLE.

Press Release


Overview

In a historic partnership, some three-dozen community foundations have committed themselves to a long-term campaign to rebuild levels of connectedness in their communities. They will take the lead in catalyzing community action and in funding innovative approaches to increasing the stock of social capital. As the first step of this campaign, they have undertaken a massive scale survey to conduct "community physicals" using the Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey. The survey maps the relative strengths and areas for improvement in their communities' civic behavior and sets a baseline against which future progress can be assessed in another survey several years hence.

The effort builds on the work of Prof. Robert D. Putnam, author of Bowling Alone: Collapse and Revival of the American Community (Simon & Schuster, 2000), that details how markedly our civic ties have weakened over the last generation and the price we pay for these frayed ties in the quality of our education, our physical health and happiness, the safety on our streets, the responsiveness of democratic institutions of government, and in economic development. While Putnam's previous work and others' research was designed to measure trends in civic engagement over time, the Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey is useful not for assessing our past civic trajectory but to analyzing differences in civic engagement across place.

The community foundations' effort will also build on the strategies for civic revitalization outlined in Better Together – the report of the Saguaro Seminar: Civic Engagement in America at the John F. Kennedy School of Government of Harvard University. [The report is available online at: www.bettertogether.org.] The report – the culmination of three years of dialogue among a diverse group of thinkers and doers – details promising strategies for increasing our social capital through faith-based efforts, schools and youth, the workplace, politics, and the arts.

The Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey is comprised of a national sample of 3,000 respondents and representative samples in 40 communities nationwide (across 29 states) covering an additional 26,200 respondents.

The Survey is the largest scientific investigation of civic engagement ever conducted in America. President Bush began his presidency by exhorting us to be ‘citizens, not spectators’ and to serve our nation ‘beginning with your neighbor’, and built on the Clinton Administration's similar interest in civic engagement. Given this backdrop, the Survey represents an extraordinary and enormous trove of data for policy makers, researchers, and community-builders.  Investigations to-date have only begun to scratch the richness of the survey data. The trends discussed are generally rather robust, but every generalization may not necessarily be true of every part of the country, and probably is not true for some communities represented by this survey.

The Survey, in addition to revealing the character of civic engagement in each community, suggests two very large challenges and opportunities across all the communities sampled:

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