255 8 major civic engagement activities – descriptions

  1. Community Involvement Activities (secular): Such activities include volunteering, membership and participation in organizations, working with others to solve community problems, serving on a board, and attending a committee meeting or a board or council meeting. Almost two-thirds of our respondents (66%) reported volunteering time to at least one type of organization. More than one in five (22%) respon¬dents volunteer in youth organizations, and 14% volunteer in civic organizations. Nearly half the respondents (49%) were involved in some kind of humanitarian activity, which is the leading form of community action. More than eight in 10 (83%) belong to at least one type of secular group or organization.
  2. Religious Activities: Nine in 10 Illinoisans (91%) claim some form of religious affiliation. Two-thirds (67%) belong to a place of worship, and 47% attend religious services weekly. About seven in 10 (72%) con¬tributed money to a place of worship within the past year, and one in five served actively on a board in the past three years. (This type does not include volunteering for a faith-based organization; those activities are included in “Community Involvement” above.)
  3. Contribution Activities: Almost nine in 10 (87%) reported giving money to a secular charitable or religious organization within the past year, and almost six in 10 (58%) reported giving to both. Almost nine in 10 (88%) also reported donating food, clothing, or toys to a needy fam¬ily or charitable organization, and 15% reported donating blood. (Our overall score here, however, excludes giving to religious organizations.)
  4. Political Activities: About eight in 10 (82%) reported voting in the November 2000 national election. (This is somewhat higher than the Illinois State Board of Election’s figure of a 69% official voter turnout, but methods of measuring “voter turnout” are in dispute.) About one in six (16%) said they attended a candidate forum, debate, or information night in the past year. About one in 10 (9%) said they worked for a party or candidate in 2000. About one in seven (15%) reported giving money to a political action committee, candidate, interest group, or political cause in the past year. One in twenty (5%) said they had run for public office at some point, and another 16% said they had thought about running.
  5. Discussion of Politics and Current Events: One in five (20%) said they discuss local politics or community affairs almost every day, and two-thirds said they do so weekly with family members, co-workers, or friends and neighbors.
  6. News Exposure Activities: Illinoisans watch local television news more frequently than they listen to radio news or read newspapers. That is consistent with national trends. More than seven in 10 (72%) watch the television news every day, while half (50%) read the newspaper every day. Six in 10 (60%) listen to radio news every day. Nearly four in 10 (38%) reported watching or listening to a talk show or call-in show about news or public affairs on radio or television several times a week. Of those who watched or listened, one in five (22%) said they had attempted to call one of the shows. About one in seven (13%) said they watch C-SPAN several times a week, while about half (54%) said they generally do not watch it.
  7. Technology-Based Activities: This category is a place to look for new forms of civic engagement. Excluding e-mail used for work, almost half (46%) reported using e-mail at least several times a week, with one in four (26%) reporting daily usage. Seven in 10 overall (72%) have used the Internet. For information about current events and public affairs, one in six (16%) use the Internet every day, and four in 10 (40%) use it at least several times a month. One in four have visited Web sites for local schools or community colleges (26%) and local government (24%). About one in 20 (6%) have visited the site of a local civic group. Four in 10 (38%) have never used e-mail, and almost three in 10 (28%) have never used the Internet. Very few (4%) are using chat rooms every month to discuss current events.
  8. Informal Socializing: Americans get together in many ways beyond their place of work and formal organizations and institutions. Informal socializing is an important aspect of the social fabric because it provides ways for people to bond with each other, and those bonds help build communities. Seven in 10 respondents (70%) said they participate at least monthly in a small informal group for socializing or recreation such as playing cards, meeting for dinner or drinks, golfing or bowling, or similar activities. Almost half (47%) do so several times a month, and one of eight (13%) do it several times a week.

From Profile of Illinois: An Engaged State, the final report of the Illinois Civic Engagement Project, University of Illinois Springfield and United Way of Illinois, 2001. It was based on the first statewide survey of civic engagement in Illinois. For 68 recommendations (PDF) on how to get people more involved, see the complete report. Or see http://civic.uis.edu.

Posted on June 10, 2014