A recent survey suggests Americans have a profound sense of connectivity to their neighbors, contrary to the popular belief that they are reluctant to lead a busy community life and spend their leisure time at home watching sitcoms or surfing the Internet.
Over 100 million Americans volunteered their time to help solve problems in their communities during the past 12 months, according to the poll conducted by the Pew Partnership for Civic Change. More than 60 million Americans reported volunteering on a regular basis.
“The results of this poll debunk the popular notion that Americans are indifferent to the concerns of their communities,” said Suzanne Morse, Pew Partnership’s executive director. “[Instead of] retreating from civic responsibility, Americans are meeting these challenges and asking how they can do more.”
In his inaugural address, President George W. Bush called Americans not to be spectators, but “responsible citizens, building communities of service and a nation of character.” The Pew Partnership researchers believe these words set the tone for a new era of civic involvement.
The main problems facing communities nationwide are: The lack of jobs paying a living wage, access to affordable health care, illegal drugs, a poor level of child supervision, a decline in moral values, and insufficient affordable care for the elderly, according to the poll conducted for the Pew Partnership by the Campaign Study Group.
While government action is expected in resolving those issues, few Americans consider government institutions as their first support option. Instead, they turn to local police force, religious groups and neighborhood organizations.
“The federal government ranked 14th on a list of 15 possible problem solvers in communities,” said Dwight Morris, Campaign Study Group president. “[Americans] have little faith in the government’s ability to address their concerns.”
Ninety percent of Americans said working with others to solve problems gets better results, although 41 percent of those surveyed said they did not know how to get involved in community work.
Alex Smirnov is BCE’s research associate.