HGov: Civic Participation

Civic participation is essential in a democracy. Citizens who get involved in civic and community groups help to strengthen civil society. At the same time, they tend to become more engaged in the political process. Most people fall into one of four broad categories of civic engagement.

Electoral specialists are those whose main engagement is through the election process. People in this group vote, volunteer in political campaigns, and try to persuade others to vote as well.

Civic specialists focus on improving their communities and helping others. They join local civic groups, support nonprofit organizations, and take part in fundraising activities for worthy causes.

Dual activists are made up of people who engage in both electoral and civic activities. They may be found passing out leaflets in a political campaign one day and volunteering in a shelter the next.

The disengaged is made up of people who are not significantly engaged in civic life. They don’t vote or pay attention to civic affairs.

Only a minority of citizens engage in the more demanding forms of political activity, such as work on community affairs or on behalf of a candidate during a political campaign. Nevertheless, the proportion of Americans who engage in these more demanding forms of activity exceeds the proportion of Europeans who do so. Most political activists are individuals of higher income and education; they have the skills and material resources to participate effectively and tend to take a greater interest in politics. More than in any other Western democracy, political participation in the United States is related to economic status.

Social movements are broad efforts to achieve change by citizens who feel that government is not properly responsive to their interests. These efforts sometimes take place outside established channels; demonstrations, picket lines, and marches are common means of protest. Protesters are younger and more idealistic on average than are other citizens, but they are a small proportion of the population. Despite America’s tradition of free expression, protest activities do not have a high level of public support.

Chapter 6 Quiz III – close Friday 10/7



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