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The Davenport Institute Co-Releases the 2010 California Civic Health Index

View the 2010 California Civic Health Index.


Report by National Conference of Citizenship, Pepperdine’s Davenport Institute, California Forward, and Center for Civic Education Compares California’s Volunteering and Engagement to Other States

Malibu, Calif. (November 11, 2010) – At a conference held yesterday at the Pepperdine School of Public Policy, the Congressionally-chartered National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC), in collaboration with Pepperdine University’s Davenport Institute, California Forward, and the Center for Civic Education, released its annual study of California civic participation – the 2010 California Civic Health Index. (copies available from Pepperdine’s Office of Public Relations and News, bill.krenn@pepperdine.edu).

This year’s study examines two broad categories of civic health. “Social civic engagement” includes activities such as volunteering, working with neighbors on local problems, dining with family and group membership. “Political civic engagement” examines matters such as voting, registering to vote, and discussing politics with others.

Speakers at the release event included:

1. David B. Smith, executive director, National Conference on Citizenship (Washington, D.C.)

2. Bruce McPherson, former California Secretary of State, member of California Forward’s Leadership Council

3. Pete Peterson, executive director, Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership at the Pepperdine School of Public Policy (Malibu, CA)

4. John Hale: Associate Director, Center for Civic Education (Calabasas, CA)

Panelists at the press conference discussed how California’s rankings on the Civic Health Index can help us understand preliminary findings regarding voter participation in last weeks’ midterm elections and offered policy recommendations to continue promoting civic engagement in California.

“Civic Engagement is more than voting, volunteering and giving – it’s how we connect to each other, thereby encouraging an informed, engaged, trusting and giving society,” said Smith, “it creates the fabric of our society.”

While the Civic Health Index shows that California ranks low in a number of categories, California showed significant improvement in both political and social civic engagement over the last three years since the first Health Index was published. More Californians are turning out to vote, volunteering, and working with neighbors to solve local problems now than in 2008. California also compares favorably with demographically comparable states such as Texas and New York in both index rankings and trends over time.

McPherson saw a connection between these trends and California’s recent passage of redistricting act Proposition 20. “People want to be involved in decisions. They want to be the ones who elect their representatives, not have representatives tell them who they will elect,” he said.

When it comes to continuing these positive trends and improving civic engagement in California, Hale emphasized the need for increased civic education, beginning in elementary school. “Students need the rich foundation of our political theory and history, after which they need to be taught how to engage in government,” he said. Such lessons, he explained, help bind them to the community in which they live.

The 2010 CHI is the third annual study of Californians’ civic participation. Data was gathered from the Census Current Population Survey (CPS) and its Volunteering and Voting Supplements. This year’s California report follows the September release of the National Civic Health Assessment in Washington, D.C., and is one of 13 state- and four city-level reports. Other states surveyed include: Arizona, New York, Texas, Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania.

The National Conference on Citizenship develops the Indexes with data analysis provided by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University. Members of the national Civic Health Index Working Group include civic scholars Robert Putnam, Bill Galston, Stephen Goldsmith and Peter Levine.

While Californians show room for improvement in most civic participation measures, positive increases in many areas over the last few years demonstrate that the Golden State is on the right path.

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Reporters’ note: Pete Peterson of the Davenport Institute will be available for comment on the report via telephone, e-mail and uplink via Pepperdine’s Live Feed Studio on its Malibu campus. David B. Smith of the NCoC also will be available for comment via telephone and e-mail..

 Visit the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership Web site.