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Looking for answers – Fix social woes, citizens say

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Americans want solutions to the troubling social problems involving young people, crime and civic participation, a new study says.

What’s more, the study by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation suggests that “people care a great deal more about close-to-home issues than they see reflected in the national political debate,” says Hodding Carter III, the foundation’s president and chief executive officer.

Americans’ top concerns are children, local government, unemployment and civic participation, says the study, which is based on a national poll of 1,200 adults and local polls of 500 to 1,300 residents in the 26 communities in which the foundation makes local grants. The project also collected facts for each community, including high school graduation rates and infant mortality rates.

Three out of five of those surveyed throughout the U.S. said too many unsupervised children and teenagers are a problem in their community.  But about six in 10 adults give positive ratings to their local public schools. 

Those surveyed were less likely to approve of their local government than other local institutions. About 40 percent of Americans give their local governments negative ratings, compared to 24 percent who rate local police poorly and six percent who do so for their fire department.

Unemployment worries are not necessarily in sync with America’s booming economy. The national unemployment rate is below five percnet, but 54 percent of those surveyed saw unemployment as a problem.

Views on unemployment varied strongly by race. About two-thirds of blacks and Hispanics said unemployment is a problem where they live, compared to only about half of white Americans.

Americans are optimistic about their roles in local communities, the survey says. More than eight in 10 adults give their community positive ratings, and three in four believe they can have an impact in making their community a better place to live.

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