opportunity and challenge of faith-based civic engagement.
opportunity and challenge of diversity
connectedness linked to happiness and vibrant communities
of social capital
between communities/community analysis
design, methodology, and other housekeeping details
data available from Roper Center
Communities Surveyed, Geography of Area, and Sample Size
Effective Sample Sizes and 95% Confidence Intervals for Percentage
NOTE: THIS IS PRESS RELEASE ON 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.
Largest-ever Survey on Americans' Civic Engagement Reveals Quality
of Life and Happiness Highest in Socially Connected Communities
Communities Conduct "Community Physicals" in Preparation
for Long-Term Campaign to Improve Civic Health
Contact: Helen Szablya, Lisa Magnino, (202) 822-5200
12:01 A.M.(your time zone) March 1, 2001
DC- Today three dozen community foundations and other funders
released the largest-ever survey on the civic engagement of Americans,
laying the groundwork for a multi-year effort to rebuild community
bonds. The Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey of nearly
30,000 found widespread religious involvement and, generally speaking,
tolerance of cultural diversity-two important components of civic
found that levels of civic engagement - how much residents trusted
others, socialized with others, and joined with others, among
other measures - predicted the quality of community life and residents'
happiness far better than levels of community education or income.
In the five communities surveyed having the highest trust of others,
52% of residents gave their community a top rating as a place
to live; in the five communities with the lowest levels of social
trust, only 31% felt that positively.
national sample of some 3,000 respondents and community respondents
in 40 communities nationwide (across 29 states) covering an additional
26,200 respondents--revealed large differences across the 40 communities
investigated on everything from joining associations to working
with neighbors to fix things, to taking local action for reform.
Yet, the Survey also showed an unequal distribution of civic engagement
in these same communities. In ethnically diverse places like Los
Angeles, or Houston, or Yakima (Washington), college graduates
are four or five times more likely to be politically involved
than their fellow residents who did not get past high school.
In ethnically less diverse places like Montana or New Hampshire,
the class gaps in political participation are less than half as
time when President Bush began his presidency by asking us to
be 'citizens, not spectators' and to serve our nation 'beginning
with your neighbor,' the Survey shows that we have opportunities
to work towards those goals through a variety of community civic
experiments," said Robert Putnam, author of Bowling
Alone: Collapse and Revival of the American Community (Simon
and Schuster, 2000) and principal investigator of the Saguaro
Seminar: Civic Engagement in America, a project at the John F.
Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
same time, quite apart from increasing the level of civic engagement
in American communities, we need to attend to its social distribution,"
continued Professor Putnam. "In some communities, the bank
president, the bank teller, and the bank janitor all turn out
for community activities, but in other communities only the president
In a historic
partnership, the community foundations (in consort with a few
private funders) releasing the survey have committed themselves
to a long-term campaign to rebuild levels of connectedness in
their communities, as community catalyst and funder. Community
foundations are private philanthropic organizations governed by
a cross-section of their community's leadership. Within their
specified geographical area, they raise and manage permanent local
endowment funds, distribute grants, and mobilize leadership and
organizational resources to address community needs and opportunities.
previous research measures trends in civic engagement over time,
the Survey is useful to analyze differences in civic engagement
across the country. The survey maps the relative strengths and
areas for improvement in communities' civic behavior and sets
a baseline against which future progress can be assessed in another
survey several years hence," said Professor Putnam. "It
represents an extraordinary, enormous trove of data for policy
makers, researchers and community builders."
will structure their work around the revelations of the survey,
which disclosed 11 dimensions of social capital covering: trust,
political engagement, giving and volunteering, faith-based engagement,
informal socializing, involvement in associations, civic leadership,
diversity of friendships, and equality of civic participation.
[Summaries of the relative performance of the 40 communities on
these dimensions is given at: http://www.cfsv.org/communitysurvey].
community foundations and other community builders conducting
'community physicals' are engaged in one of the most important
efforts ever to strengthen our communities. America needs nothing
less than a sustained, broad-based social movement to restore
civil society and civic participation," explains Professor
also disclosed two very large challenges and opportunities across
all the communities sampled:
and Challenge of Faith-Based Civic Engagement
the new Bush administration's recent push, faith-based participation
and affiliation are widespread in America, particularly in the
South and Midwest. Eighty-eight percent of the national respondents
reported some religious affiliation and 84% of the national sample
agreed somewhat or agreed strongly that religion was very important
to them. Lower levels of respondents were actually members: 58%
of the national sample were members of a local church, synagogue
or other religious or spiritual community. Some 45% of national
respondents reported religious activities almost weekly or more
blacks showed greater religiosity than non-Hispanic whites; Hispanics
showed greater religious affiliation and church attendance than
whites but lower levels of membership and lower levels of participation
in religious activities outside of services. Ninety-one percent
of blacks and 93% of Hispanics reported religious affiliation
versus 88% of whites. Fifty-one percent of blacks attended religious
services almost weekly or more often versus 48% of Hispanics and
43% of whites. Sixty-four percent of blacks in the national sample
were members of religious communities versus 59% of whites and
43% of Hispanics. Forty-seven percent of blacks participated in
religious activities other than religious services as compared
to 41% of whites and 31% of Hispanics.
found big differences by age with respect to religion. Younger
respondents (18-34 years of age) were far less likely to be Protestants
than older respondents, and far more likely to be everything else.
level of religious involvement offers myriad opportunities:
are more likely to fully trust people at their place of worship
(71%) than they are to trust people they work with (52%), their
neighbors (47%) or people of their own race (31%).
in religious communities is among the strongest predictors of
giving and volunteering both for religious and secular causes.
Religious people in short are great at "doing for."
involvement is positively associated with most other forms of
civic involvement. Even comparing people of comparable educational
levels, income, and so on, religiously engaged people are more
likely than religiously disengaged people to be involved in
civic groups of all sorts, to vote, to be active in community
affairs, to give blood, to trust other people (from shopkeepers
to neighbors), to know the names of public officials, to socialize
with friends and neighbors, and even simply to have a wider
circle of friends.
involvement is less biased by social standing than most other
forms of civic involvement. Poorer, less educated Americans
are much less likely to be involved in community life than other
Americans, but they are fully as engaged in religious communities.
engaged people have, on average, a more diverse set of friends
than those who are less engaged in religion.
On the other
hand, the survey suggests that the special involvement in communities
of faith brings with it some challenges:
involvement is sometimes associated with intolerance: for example,
favoring banning unpopular books from libraries, antipathy to
equal rights for immigrants, lower levels of support for racial
intermarriage and lower levels of friendships with gays.
involvement is uncorrelated with support for social reform groups.
religious participation is associated with lower levels of participation
in boycotts and marches.
all that faith organizations contribute to community life, organized
religion is - and always has been - controversial, especially
when it spills out from behind the church doors and into the public
sphere. Religion can heal divisions, to be sure, but it can also
exacerbate them. Religious exhortations can reduce tensions, but
also increase them," said Professor Putnam. "So from
a civic point of view, the special challenge associated with religious
involvement is to encourage greater tolerance for minority viewpoints
and greater sensitivity to imperatives of social reform. However,
the survey shows that faith-based communities have some matchless
strengths as sources of civic engagement."
and Challenge of Diversity
As in earlier
eras in American history, America is now becoming a more diverse
society. Just as the arrival of immigrants from southern and eastern
Europe at the turn of the last century roiled our large cities
in the short run and enriched our nation in the long run, so now
many of our communities now face the challenges and opportunities
associated with rapid growth of racial and ethnic minorities.
speaking, Americans seem open to this new diversity, which brings
- The survey
found high levels of tolerance, probably partly due to changed
mores and partly due to changing American views: only 22% of
whites expressed opposition to a close relative marrying a black,
and 18% of Hispanics opposed this. Having a close relative marry
a Latino or Hispanic was even less controversial: only 12% of
whites and only 9% of blacks opposed this. Only 11% of whites
opposed a close relative marrying an Asian, and only 10% of
blacks and 12% of Hispanics opposed this. Similarly, 10% of
blacks and 10% of Hispanics opposed a close relative marrying
- The most
diverse communities in the survey report a higher density of
ethnic, neighborhood, and self-help groups.
of ethnically diverse communities are more likely to have acquaintances
of various races and sexual orientations, as well as a stronger
sense of their own ethnic identity.
On the other
hand, the survey suggests that diversity also poses some challenges:
- trust of
others: not only is interracial trust substantially lower in
ethnically diverse communities, but residents of ethnically diverse
communities are less likely to trust their neighbors, the clerks
where they shop, the people they work with, and even (quite
remarkably) people of their own ethnic group. For example, blacks
and Hispanics were less than half as likely to trust other neighborhood
residents as whites (56% of whites trusted neighbors vs. 21%
for blacks and 19% for hispanics).
with others, even informally. Residents of more diverse communities
are more likely to be personally isolated; they claim fewer
friends and confidants, spend less time socializing with friends
and relatives, and have less sense of community with their friends.
in politics. People in more ethnically diverse communities are
less likely to vote, to participate in demonstrations or protests,
or to sign petitions. People at the bottom of the socioeconomic
ladder are especially disengaged from politics in ethnically
across class lines. Residents of ethnically diverse communities
are less likely to number among their acquaintances someone
who has been on welfare, a manual worker, a business owner,
a vacation homeowner, or someone of a different religious faith.
Although they are more likely to report having an acquaintance
of a different race, they are not more likely to have invited
those interracial acquaintances into their homes.
sense, our survey uncovered the social capital equivalent of the
digital divide," Putnam remarked. "Americans lacking
access to financial and human capital also lack access to social
connections. This lack of connections exacerbates the burden for
Americans struggling to advance economically."
Capital Community Benchmark Survey
sponsors and communities of The Social Capital Community Benchmark
Survey are: Arizona Community Foundation (Phoenix); Community
Foundation for Greater Atlanta; Forum 35/Baton Rouge
Area Foundation; Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham;
Boston Foundation; Community Foundation Serving Boulder
County; California Community Foundation (Los Angeles);
Foundation for the Carolinas (Charlotte); Central New York
Community Foundation (Syracuse / Onondaga Co.); Chicago
Community Trust; Greater Cincinnati Foundation; Cleveland
Foundation; Delaware Division of State Service Centers/Delaware
Community Foundation; Denver Foundation/Rose Community
Foundation/Piton Foundation; East Tennessee Foundation;
Fremont Area Community Foundation (MI); Grand Rapids
Community Foundation; Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro;
Greater Houston Community Foundation; Indiana Grantmakers
Alliance; Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation (WV);
Kalamazoo Community Foundation; Maine Community Foundation
(Lewiston-Auburn); Montana Community Foundation; New
Hampshire Charitable Foundation; Peninsula Community
Foundation /Community Foundation Silicon Valley; Rochester
Area Community Foundation; The Saint Paul Foundation; The
San Diego Foundation; Walter & Elise Haas Fund (San Francisco);
Community Foundation for Southeastern Michigan (Detroit);
The Winston-Salem Foundation; York Foundation (PA);
and Northwest Area Foundation (Bismarck, central Oregon, Minneapolis,
North Minneapolis, rural South Dakota, Seattle, and Yakima)
comprises a national sample of some 3,000 respondents and community
respondents in 40 communities nationwide (across 29 states) covering
an additional 26,200 respondents. The survey measures everything
from levels of giving blood, to hanging out with friends, to participating
in various groups and associations, to levels of trust, to participation
in group arts and group sports, to the diversity of our friendship
averaging 26 minutes, was conducted by telephone using random-digit-dialing
during July - November. Interviewing in the national survey and
in most of the community surveys was concluded in October. TNS
Intersearch, an international survey firm, was commissioned to
conduct the interviewing and prepare the data for analysis. Roughly
29,200 people were surveyed. The national sample (N = 3,003) of
the continental U.S. contains an over-sampling of black and Hispanic
respondents; 501 non-Hispanic blacks and 502 Hispanics were surveyed.
Capital Community Benchmark Survey was designed by the Saguaro
Seminar and drew upon the lessons learned from a Social Capital
Measurement Workshop held at Harvard University in October 1999.
The Saguaro Seminar was guided in survey development by a 9-person
Scientific Advisory Committee, composed of leading scholars on
measuring social capital and on cross-racial social trends.
builds off of two comprehensive efforts: the work of Professor
Putnam and strategies for civic revitalization outlined in Better
Together, a recent Saguaro Seminar report. The work of Professor
Putnam details how markedly civic ties have weakened over the
last generation and the price that Americans pay for these frayed
ties in the quality of education, physical health and happiness,
community safety, the responsiveness of democratic institutions
of government, and economic development. Better Together is an
accumulation 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 report is available
online at: www.bettertogether.org.]