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Civic Life in America Report is in, See how Maine ranked!

September 16th, 2011

AUGUSTA- The "Civic Life in America" report issued annually by the Corporation for National and Community Service and the National Conference on Citizenship was released today.  Maine's profile shows the levels of civic activity are moderate except in one area, the percent of registered voters who actually vote. On that indicator Maine ranks first in the nation with 58% participation among registered voters.

"Civic life" indicators track community vitality by assessing how often residents engage in civic activities, how people connect with each other and get information, and how they make a difference.  The report focuses on five aspects of civic life that are essential for a community to thrive: Service, Participating in a Group, Connecting to Information and Current Events, Social Connectedness, and Political Action.

When it comes to service, people who volunteer with an organization are much more likely to participate in all other forms of civic engagement. Children who volunteer are likely to participate in all aspects of civic life as adults. While the study showed that one third of Mainers volunteer with an organization, this is down from last year, changing the state's rank from 15th place nationwide to 16th place. 

For the category of Participating in a Group, Maine indicators rose slightly across the board.  Nearly 37% of Maine residents belong to a group or an organization moving the state-over-state rank from 20th to 19th place.  Measures in this category encompass participation in school, faith-based, and social groups as well as the degree to which people take on leadership roles. Only 14% of residents serve on committees or in leadership positions in the groups to which they belong. The indicator is monitored because group participation is a sign of the overall strength of a community's ability to identify and address issues of public concern.

Staying socially connected promotes interest in working together and stimulates civic engagement. For instance, people who volunteer are much more likely to participate in all other forms of civic engagement.  In addition, adults who use the internet regularly are more likely to engage in civic activities at a rate of 19% higher than people who do not use the internet on a regular basis. 

In Maine, 53% of adults regularly communicate with their families on the internet (up 2% from last year) and nearly 90% eat dinner with their families on a regular basis, this is up from last year.  When it comes to connecting with people other than family, only 44% talk with neighbors daily and a mere 17% of exchange favors with them as well.  The strong family ties but weaker neighbor connections mean the state ranks 12th in the country for social connectedness.

As category of "Civic Life," political action indicators show citizen's efforts to influence community decisions, public policy, and government actions.  Voting is a very traditional form of civic engagement in the United States.  In Maine, 75% of voting-age residents are registered to vote compared to only 59% nationwide.  However, only 58% of registered voters actually turned out to vote, a significant drop from the previous election.  Despite the actual voting rate, Maine ranks number one in the country for voter turnout.

Other indicators of political engagement are contacting or visiting public officials, attending public meetings, and making purchases based on the values or community actions of the producers. Maine residents participate at very low levels in these aspects of civic life. Only 17% contacted a public official or attended a public meeting and just 15% used their buying power to express their opinion of a producer's values.

To some extent, political engagement is dependent on how informed and aware a person is about current events and community issues. Among Maine residents, 39% reported talking about politics frequently while 61% said they rarely or never discuss politics. 

The full statistical profile for Maine and the nation can be found at civic.serve.gov.  For in-depth discussion of the indicators and their implications for community life, visit the research section of the National Conference on Citizenship (www.ncoc.net/research).

The Maine Commission for Community Service is the state government partner of the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that administers AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and Volunteer Generation programs.

The state Commission builds capacity and sustainability in Maine's volunteer and service communities by funding programs, developing managers of volunteers and service-learning practitioners, raising awareness of sector issues, and promoting service as a strategy to solve local problems.