Photo Credit: The Patriot Post As we enter 2015, it’s worth looking back on some key cultural indicators from 2014. Here is one bad omen: According to a 2014 Associated Press-GfK poll, Americans’ sense of civic virtue is in serious decline. “I don’t see any recovery,” said Rutgers University Professor Cliff Zukin. “The people who were 40 two decades ago aren’t as engaged as the people who were 60 two decades ago. This generational slippage tends to continue.”
The poll was a reprise of questions asked in 1984, and it focused on six civic-oriented activities: voting, volunteering, jury service, reporting crimes, knowing English and keeping on top of news and public issues. . .Only 28% of Americans consider volunteering a “very important obligation.” And while 75% characterize voting a central obligation of citizenship, talk is cheap: Voter turnout in the last presidential election dipped to 57.5% of eligible citizens compared to 62.3% in 2008. Voter turnout in 2014? The 36.4% of eligible citizens who bothered to vote represented the lowest turnout in any election cycle since World War II.
Most Americans do feel some sense of duty to the nation, with 90% characterizing the reporting of a crime one has witnessed, voting in elections, knowing English and serving on a jury when called as “somewhat important” obligations of citizenship. And a majority of Americans consider them “very important” obligations. Yet with an exception for voting, those majorities have declined by an average of approximately 13 percentage points over the last three decades.
Leading the pack are adults under 30 years of age. In every category except volunteering, they were less likely than elder generations to see any obligation, and also felt less obligated than young people of the past. Even more ominously, nearly one in four feel no obligation to keep informed, volunteer or speak English.
. . . Ronald Reagan made it clear in his inaugural address as California governor: “Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction.” Civic virtue and the obligations of citizenship cannot be separated from the preservation of freedom. We allow their continued deterioration at our own peril. (Read more about U.S. civic virtue in decline HERE)