The Measure of a Citizen: Civic Engagement in Utah

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UTAH SOCIAL CAPITAL SERIES

Check out the other sections of the Utah Social Capital Series. Links will become live as reports are published

  • Civic Engagement
  • Social Trust
  • Community Life
  • Family Health
  • Social Cohesion
  • Focus on Future Generations
  • Social Mobility
  • Overall Index

Social capital stands in the shadows of a wide variety of public policy and economic concerns. Low social capital levels often lead to poor economic and social outcomes, both for individuals and for populations. But in places where social capital is comparatively robust, it can translate into heightened economic prospects and lower demands on the public sector.

This first installment in the series focuses on civic engagement. It presents data and analysis on three key measures: voter turnout; citizen attendance at public meetings; and the number of advocacy organizations. It looks at Utah’s performance on these measures over time, comparing the Beehive State both to the seven other Mountain States and to the nation at large.

KEY FINDINGS OF THIS REPORT

  • Voter turnout in Utah has improved in recent election cycles – after having languished near the very bottom nationally. The state rank surged to 13th among the 50 states in the 2018 midterm election. However, in the 2020 presidential election cycle, Utah ranked only 39th nationally and sixth among the eight Mountain States.
  • Citizen attendance at public meetings is a strong point for Utah. In 2019, Vermont and Maine were the only states in the nation that outperformed Utah on meeting participation.
  • When it comes to the number of advocacy organizations, Utah has consistently trended below the nation at large during the past decade. In 2020, Utah’s 2.6 advocacy groups per 100,000 people ranked 43rd in the nation.
  • Across all three measures of civic engagement, Montana appears to be the most consistent strong performer among the Mountain States. Nevada is the most consistent poor performer.

Robust citizen engagement in the democratic process and in civic improvement has long been seen as a barometer of the vitality of the American republic. At the state and local levels, civic engagement has significant implications for the effectiveness and efficiency of government, the quality of services government delivers and the responsiveness of public officials to the priorities of the public. Citizens displaying a high degree of civic engagement also tend to be accustomed to collaborating to achieve common goals.

A decline in civic engagement, by contrast, can reduce the accountability of the public sector and produce a negative public spirit.

Read the full report: The Measure of a Citizen: Civic Engagement in Utah

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