North Carolinians seen as disconnected

PJ staff report

Civic life is ailing in North Carolina, with nonprofits led by a relatively exclusive demographic group, and young people less engaged than any other group, a new report says.

The state’s voluntary and social organizations are led by a “small and homogeneous group” of older, college-educated, mostly white residents who are involved in religious organizations, says the North Carolina Civic Health Index 2010, a report from the National Conference on Citizenship in partnership with a handful of organizations in the state.

“Just as American democracy cannot succeed without informed and engaged citizens, North Carolina’s future depends on residents who care about their communities and participate in civic life,” the report says.

Young people are less engaged in civic activities than any other age group in the state, the report says.

Those activities include volunteering in the past year, working with their neighbors to fix a problem in their community, participating in a political act other than an election, contribution $25 or more and, among eligible voters, voting in the 2008 election.

The report says North Carolinians without college experience are more likely to have strong personal connections to family and friends and to help their neighbors than those with some college education, while rural residents have a higher level of “connectedness” than those living in metro areas.

North Carolinians with some college education are more than twice as likely to access the news frequently and engage in political discussions with others than are those with no college experience, the report says.

Voting in the 2009 presidential election is the only measure of civic engagement on which the state performs above the national average and represents the state’s “civic strength,” the report says.

Nearly 80 percent of residents who had served on active military duty reported voting in 2008, compared to 66 percent of their civilian counterparts.

And 82.4 percent of residents living in households with annual incomes at or above $75,000 reported voting in 2008, compared to 60.4 percent of residents living in households with incomes below $35,000.

The report calls on policymakers, educators and community groups to do more to get North Carolinians engaged in civic life, making specific recommendations about what each group can do.

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