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 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.
opportunity and challenge of faith-based civic engagement.
involvement is an important dimension of civic life in most American
communities. This is especially true in the South and Midwest.
(As rough rule of thumb, religiosity declines with distance from
the Mississippi River.)
at a time when the nation is actively discussing President Bush's
new Office of Faith Based Programs, these data are particularly
relevant. However, as we noted in Better Together, "For
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." It is against this backdrop that
the survey casts light.
without the new Bush administration's push, American faith-based
participation and affiliation is widespread. Eighty eight percent
of the national respondents reported some religious affiliation
and 84% of national sample agreed somewhat or agreed strongly
that religion was very important in their lives. Lower levels
of respondents were actually members: 58% of national sample were
members of a local church, synagogue or other religious or spiritual
community. Some forty five percent of national respondents reported
religious almost weekly or more frequently.
blacks showed greater religiosity than 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 vs. 48%
of hispanics and 43% of whites. Sixty four percent of blacks in
the national sample were members of religious communities vs.
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 respondents older than they were, and far more likely to
be everything else (including expressing no religious affiliation).
Social Capital Survey Respondents
respondents were also far less likely to be frequent attenders
than older respondents: only 34% of respondents aged 18-34 attended
religious services almost weekly or more often vs. 59% of respondents
65 and older.
What is the
impact of this religious engagement? Involvement in communities
of faith among all goers collectively is strongly associated with
giving and volunteering. Indeed, involvement in religious community
is among the strongest predictors of giving and volunteering for
religious causes as well as for secular ones. Religious communities
embody one of the most important sources of social capital and
concern for community in America. Religious people are great
at "doing for."
religious involvement is positively associated with most other
forms of civic involvement. Even holding other factors constant
(comparing people of comparable educational levels, comparable
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 more, to be more 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.
Interestingly as well, Americans are more likely to fully trust
people at their place of worship (71%) than they are to trust
people they work with (52%), people in their neighborhood (47%)
or people of their own race (31%).
feature of religious involvement is that it 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. Conversely, religiously engaged people
have, on average, a more diverse set of friends than those who
are less engaged in religion. Holding constant their own social
status, religiously engaged people are more likely than other
Americans to number among their friends a person of a different
faith, a community leader, a manual worker, a business owner,
and even a welfare recipient.
For all these
reasons, faith-based community involvement holds much promise.
However, our survey suggests that religiously observant Americans
today tend to be more conservative politically than their secular
neighbors. Whether their views stem from their conservatism or
their religiosity, our survey suggests, as earlier research has
as well, that intense involvement in communities of faith is more
likely to be associated with intolerance: i.e., 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. Religious involvement is
linked to greater support for needy individuals, but it is not
necessarily associated with greater support for social justice.
The "social capital" embodied in religious communities
is more likely to "bond" individuals with those like
them than to "bridge" them to those unlike them. Communities
of high religiosity are generous in their giving and volunteering,
but they are relatively low on measures of social action (marches,
petitions, rallies) and relatively low on tolerance (for immigrants,
gays, unpopular ideas in general). So from a civic perspective,
the special challenge associated with faith-based civic engagement
is to encourage greater tolerance for minority viewpoints and
greater sensitivity to imperatives of social reform. However,
our survey shows that faith-based communities have some matchless
strengths as sources of civic engagement