Society & Culture

UGA study shows civic engagement low in Georgia communities

Athens, Ga. – A new report reveals that Georgia communities exhibit lower levels of civic engagement than the national average.

The Georgia Civic Health Index, which was prepared by the University of Georgia Carl Vinson Institute of Government in collaboration with GeorgiaForward, the Georgia Family Connection Partnership, the National Conference on Citizenship and a number of community foundations, presents the results of a study that measured the degree to which citizens participate in their communities.

The joint project sought to examine how the state’s residents participate in civic life-be it through voting, volunteering or interacting with family and friends-and what that means for Georgia. Similar reports have been collected under the guidance of the National Conference of Citizenship in 20 other states since 2006.

Georgia exhibits some of the lowest rates of civic engagement in the country, particularly in the millennial generation, or people born between 1981 and 2004. The state is about average in such civic health indicators as family and neighborhood interactions but is below the national average in measures like attending public meetings and voter turnout.

Though Georgia ranks low on many indicators of civic health, findings in the report raise questions that should arouse fresh discussion about ways to increase voter participation, volunteerism and political awareness, according to W. Dennis Epps, Institute deputy director.

“I think that 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 Epps, who helped unveil the report with a presentation at the recent Association County Commissioners of Georgia annual meeting in Savannah.

The results of the study establish a benchmark for civic participation that government and community leaders can use to find ways of encouraging more engagement and measure progress over time. The consortium that produced the report plans to conduct annual citizen engagement analyses over the next several years to record improvements in participation, according to Amir Farokhi, executive director of GeorgiaForward.

“We want to spark a conversation about civic engagement in Georgia,” he said.

The report is designed to give Georgians a base measure of civic health. While it makes no recommendations, it offers a number of ideas about ways people, organizations and governments can help increase community connectedness and participation, some as simple as casting a ballot.

The full Georgia Civic Health Index report is available at