NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Americans' Sense of Civic Duty Declining

December 31, 2014

A new poll from the Associated Press and research company GfK reveals that Americans' attitudes toward civic duties are changing. The poll repeated questions from a 1984 University of Chicago poll, which surveyed Americans about their views on voting, volunteering, serving on a jury, reporting crime, speaking English and being informed. According to this year's poll:

  • One-fourth of Americans under the age of 30 said that speaking English, volunteering or being informed about current events was not a civic duty.
  • Young Americans felt most strongly about reporting crimes, with two-thirds calling it "very important." However, that is a drop from the 1984 poll when 86 percent of young Americans called crime reporting "very important."
  • Less than one-third (28 percent) of respondents called volunteering a "very important obligation," compared to three-fourths of respondents who viewed voting that way.
  • Americans under 30 considered volunteering more important than did their 1984 counterparts, with 29 percent calling volunteering "very important," compared to 19 percent in 1984.
  • In 1984, 56 percent of Americans felt that keeping up with current events was very important; today, that figure is just 37 percent. One-fifth of respondents said there existed no civic obligation to be informed.
  • Compared to the 1984 poll, respondents only ranked voting and volunteering as high as they did in the past. All other activities fell in importance compared to 30 years ago.

Despite the three-fourths of Americans who said voting was important, Connie Cass at the Associated Press notes that only 36 percent of eligible voters actually voted in the November 2014 midterm elections -- the lowest turnout since the Second World War.

Source: Connie Cass, "5 Things About Americans' Slipping Sense of Duty," Associated Press, December 29, 2014. 

 

Browse more articles on Government Issues