Georgia’s Civic Health Requires a Boost

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New Report Shows Georgia’s rates of civic engagement among lowest in the nation

MACON—When it comes to civic health, Georgia is ailing. We like to talk about politics, but we don’t turn out to vote. We don’t trust our neighbors; we’re not volunteering; we’re not active in our communities; and we don’t have confidence in our public schools, the media, or corporations. This is according to the Georgia Civic Health Index—the first study of its kind in the state.

Released today by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at UGA (CVIOG), Georgia Family Connection Partnership (GaFCP), GeorgiaForward, and the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC), the Georgia Civic Health Index reports that Georgia exhibits some of the lowest rates of civic engagement in the nation across a majority of indicators in four categories—Social Connectedness, Community Involvement, Political Action, and Confidence in Institutions.

“Georgia’s ability to prosper relies on the strength of its communities and local decision-making,” said GaFCP Executive Director Gaye Smith. “Our state—and our democracy—can only succeed if we as citizens are informed and engaged, talk to one another, and actively participate in our communities and political system.”

Research shows that strong civic health has been linked to better public health outcomes, including improved child development and adolescent well-being, improved mental health, lower violent crime rates and youth delinquency, and reduced mortality.

The new base-line report ranks Georgia 41st among all states in voter registration rate and 38th in voter turnout. However, Georgians do fare better when it comes to local elections (29th). There’s also a trust issue in the Peach State because we rank 44th in the nation in trusting all or most of our neighbors, and 46th for confidence in the media—Georgia’s lowest ranking.

Millennials—adults born after 1981—lag older age groups in civic participation. Georgians with higher incomes and educational attainment exhibit better rates of civic engagement, and there is little difference in civic engagement between white and non-white Georgians.

“I think our local governments and our state government will take a look at the Georgia Civic Health Index and work on how we can do a better job of engaging citizens,” said CVIOG Deputy Director Dennis Epps. “For instance, decision-makers can provide opportunities for all residents, constituents, underrepresented groups, and young residents to participate in policy-making and gain experience for civic participation.”

While Georgia maintains an average national ranking for talking to neighbors (25th), a bright spot in the report emerges under social connectedness. Nine out of 10 Georgians said they frequently eat dinner with family, and 93 percent of families who reside in rural communities reported eating together.

“These trends are encouraging because they indicate that Georgia has a solid foundation of local social networks upon which to build and improve overall civic health,” said NCoC Executive Director Ilir Zherka. “Georgia’s social connectedness indicators—how often residents interact with friends, family, and neighbors—are consistently strong.”

Expressing opinions about community or political issues online (6th) and talking about politics with friends or family (17th), are the only measures of civic engagement on which the state performs above the national average.

This report is a starting point for a statewide conversation on how to address Georgia’s civic health challenges and to move toward a more connected, engaged, and prosperous Georgia.

“We should be concerned, but remain hopeful,” said GeorgiaForward Executive Director Amir Farokhi. “With a strong network of organizations and decision-makers focused on improving civic health, Georgia has the opportunity to leverage its historical, regional, racial and ethnic, and economic diversity as strengths rather than points of separation.”

Read the Georgia Civic Health Index.

Read the Georgia Civic Health Index Fact Sheet.

Learn more about civic health in Georgia.

Rebecca Rice
Georgia KIDS COUNT Coordinator

Bill Valladares
GaFCP Communications Director
404-527-7394 (x113)

Follow us on Twitter: @gafcpnews

Georgia Civic Health Index—Authors

The Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia has worked with public officials throughout Georgia and around the world for more than 80 years to improve governance and people’s lives. From Georgia’s early days as a largely agrarian state with a modest population to its modern-day status as a national and international force in business, industry, and politics with a population of almost 10 million, the Institute has helped government leaders navigate change and forge strong directions for a better Georgia.

Georgia Family Connection Partnership (GaFCP) is a public-private partnership created by the State of Georgia and funders from the private sector to assist communities in addressing the serious challenges facing children and families. GaFCP also serves as a resource to state agencies across Georgia that work to improve the conditions of children and families. As The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Georgia KIDS COUNT grantee, GaFCP provides policymakers and citizens with current data they need to make informed decisions regarding priorities, services, and resources that impact Georgia’s children, youth, families, and communities.

GeorgiaForward is an independent, non-partisan nonprofit organization working to improve the state of Georgia by engaging business, government, and civil society leaders to collaboratively shape a statewide policy agenda. Through conferences, reports, and programs, GeorgiaForward works to engage leaders to find a common vision for Georgia, create an environment in which vision and pragmatism trumps political deadlock, and discuss innovative solutions to our state’s challenges.

The National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC) is a dynamic, non-partisan nonprofit—chartered by Congress in 1953—working at the forefront of the nation’s civic life. NCoC continuously explores what shapes today’s citizenry, define the evolving role of the individual in our democracy, and uncover ways to motivate greater participation. Through events, research and reports, NCoC expands its nation’s contemporary understanding of what it means to be a citizen. NCoC seeks new ideas and approaches for creating greater civic health and vitality throughout the United States.