The Carsey School of Public Policy of the University of New Hampshire has published it's latest Civic Health Index for New Hampshire. Below are the Key Findings. You can read or download the full 48 page report HERE.
When we look at New Hampshire relative to the rest of the country, we have many things to celebrate. In the most recent data, the Granite State ranked:
■ Second in the nation in charitable giving of $25 or more in the past year
■ Fifth in the nation in voting in the 2016 election
■ Fifth in the nation in connecting regularly with friends and family
■ Sixth in attending public meetings
■ Seventh in talking about important political, societal, or local issues with friends and family
Some other trends include:
■ The majority of New Hampshire residents feel they matter to their community and can make an impact.
■ In midterm elections in 2018, the state achieved the highest voter turnout since 1978. However, there are aspects of our civic health that need attention. Although Granite Staters demonstrated relatively strong civic health in categories such as Volunteering and Giving and Civic Awareness and Engagement, residents were more variable with respect to Connecting in Community. Although voter turnout surged in the 2020 election, prior to that, turnout had declined in the last two presidential elections, 2012 and 2016. Since 2001, trust in the national government has fallen dramatically, and trust in local government and local news media is also declining. Granite Staters reported that they feel more barriers to engagement than they did in 2001. There was a large disparity between what Granite Staters did civically with friends and family compared with what they did with their neighbors. For example,
■ Granite Staters ranked in the top ten in the nation for connecting with friends and family regularly (5th) and talking about political, societal, or local issues with friends and family (7th).
■ Granite Staters ranked toward the bottom in the nation when it comes to connecting with neighbors regularly (38th), talking with neighbors about political, societal, or local issues (33rd), and doing favors for neighbors (40th). Part of this disparity may relate to trust—since 2001, Granite Staters’ trust in their neighbors has also declined. New Hampshire residents ranked very low compared with national averages in terms of:
■ Posting their views about political, societal, or local issues online (38th)
■ Helping out friends or extended family with food, housing, or money (45th)
■ New Hampshire ranked in the bottom five states in the nation in terms of connecting with people of different racial, ethnic, or cultural backgrounds (46th).
As a note, there were several areas where our data were a helpful start but not sufficient to paint the full picture of civic life in New Hampshire—for instance, we need more data about New Hampshire’s civic health in relation to race, ethnicity, and culture, as well as further data about our charitable giving. Considering our research questions and the data we reviewed, we can point to six themes that result from our analysis.
Theme 1: Demographics affect civic health. We found that different demographic designations had effects on civic health including education, age, income, and geographic locations where individuals lived in the state.
Theme 2: Although New Hampshire demonstrates strong voter turnout overall, this varies by demographics, particularly education and income. Those with a college degree were more likely to vote, and less educated and lower income people were less likely to vote and more likely to experience obstacles that made it difficult for them to participate in civic life.
Theme 3: Overall Granite Staters’ trust is declining, both in public institutions and in each other. One of the most significant changes we found in the 2020 Index was the noticeable decline in trust in neighbors, government, and local media, compared to prior years. Trust in the national government has declined by half since 2001, from 30 percent to 14 percent; trust in local government has declined as well, from 52 percent to 44 percent in the same time period. Our trust is connected to other variables such as our sense of mattering in our communities, whether we vote, and other key indicators of civic health.
Theme 4: Education is the most consistent, stable predictor of civic behavior of all types. We examined educational achievement (type of educational degree attained), and we specifically asked to what extent residents have received civics education in school. We found relationships among education levels and/or receiving civics education, and virtually all other civic health variables including voting, knowing how to become engaged in one’s community, and whether one believes they matter to their community.
Theme 5: Income impacts civic health in some differing ways, and working class people in particular demonstrate an interesting mix of engagement behaviors. One’s income is highly related to whether and how one participates in civic life. Higher income people tended to vote more, connect more with family and friends, and connect more with people of a different racial or ethnic group. Those in the lowest income group were the most likely to do a favor for a neighbor or help others out. Low-income individuals were also most likely to connect with neighbors. We also found that those in the lower middle-income group were more likely to engage with the news and contact a public official than other income groups. At the same time, lower middle-income individuals were least likely to vote compared to others.
Theme 6: Age matters, and Millennials overall struggle in achieving strong civic health. People of different ages participate in public life to different degrees and in different ways. Those who are considered “millennials” (born between 1981 and 1996) are less likely in general to be civically engaged and vote than other age cohorts. There is evidence from a recent survey of 20- to 40-year old NH residents that one-fifth to one-quarter have no family or friends living nearby. In a survey conducted by Stay Work Play New Hampshire, almost one-third of those responding indicated that they would probably or definitely move out of state within two years.6 Since this age cohort is critical to New Hampshire’s long term civic and economic health, this is an important finding.