Kelley O’Brien is the Director of the North Carolina Civic Education Consortium, a program of the School of Government and one of the five North Carolina Civic Health Index partner organizations.
Last year, the NC Civic Education Consortium released the 2010 North Carolina Civic Health Index, a study that used data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey to assess the strengths and weaknesses of civic life in North Carolina. The report outlined significant gaps in the civic participation of North Carolina’s adults and youth, low- and high-income residents, and college and non-college graduates.
A new national report released by the Corporation for National and Community Service and the National Conference on Citizenship (both partners on the 2010 North Carolina Civic Health Index) provides updated data on civic engagement in North Carolina. Findings from the 2011 Civic Life in America report indicate that civic engagement in North Carolina is the same, if not worse, as reported in 2010. In both years, only 24% of North Carolina adults reported volunteering with an organization and only 8% of adults reported working with their neighbors. Forty-three percent of the state’s residents reported voting in the 2010 national election, ranking North Carolina number 28 out of the 50 states and Washington, DC. In 2008, North Carolina ranked 15th in voter turnout.
The 2010 North Carolina Civic Health Index provided recommendations for improving civic engagement in our communities and our state. These recommendations continue to be relevant in 2011:
- Ensure that our state’s young people are learning about government (federal, state, and local) and civics in the classroom and that teachers have resources to teach these subjects effectively.
- Recruit and mentor a diverse group of leaders who represent the varying interests of our state’s residents.
- Continue to explore creative means of supporting informed participation in all of North Carolina’s elections.
- Promote service-learning that connects students to the communities in which they live.
- Actively recruit diverse groups of volunteers.
For more information on best practices in engaging youth and adults in civic life, see Public Outreach and Participation, part of the Local Government Board Builders series.