From the report:
- While most Americans are dissatisfied with the direction of the country, they are optimistic about life in their communities and their ability to achieve the American dream.
- Most people say their neighbors get along well and are willing to help each other, even though fewer report regularly helping their neighbors or trying to work together to fix or improve something in their neighborhood.
- Americans derive a sense of community from their friends, neighborhoods, and hometowns more than their ideology or ethnic identity. Regular interaction with friends and neighbors produces a strong sense of community.
- People who live close to an ample number of amenities such as schools, parks, libraries, and restaurants are happier with their communities, more engaged with their neighbors, and less lonely.
- While loneliness is a significant problem, it may not be the epidemic that some claim.
The SCS [AEI Survey on Community and Society] asks Americans about their involvement in a variety of organizations. The question is specific, asking people whether they have been active members in the past year, “by which we mean you do volunteer work, participate, and/or attend meetings and events, doing more than just donating, paying dues or following on social media” in any of 11 different types of organizations. As Figure 7 shows, 44 percent indicate no active membership in these types of groups. A quarter have been active in only one type of group in the past year, and 29 percent have been active in two or more.
Membership in a religious organization is most common, with 22 percent saying they have been active members, followed by 14 percent who have been active in an education- or school-based organization, 13 percent in a volunteer public service organization, 12 percent in a business or professional organization, 11 percent in an organization for hobbies or cultural activities, and 10 percent in an athletic team or outdoor activities group. Fewer than 10 percent report active membership in each of the other types of organizations mentioned.
The SCS asks respondents whether they had done any of nine different political activities in the past two years. (See Figure 9.) Seventy-one percent report that they voted regularly in national elections, and 61 percent say they voted regularly in local elections. Thirty-one percent say they publicly expressed their support for a political campaign on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media. Around a quarter say they contacted any elected official or politician in the past two years (27 percent); asked their friends, neighbors, family, or coworkers to support a candidate or political position (26 percent); or displayed a political or campaign poster, bumper sticker, lawn sign, or clothing (24 percent). Twenty percent say they attended a rally, protest, speech, or campaign event, and 18 percent say they contributed money to a candidate running for office or a group working to affect public policy. Twelve percent say they worked or volunteered for a political party, candidate, or group that tried to influence policy.
People who are active in religious congregations tend to be happier and more civically engaged than either religiously unaffiliated adults or inactive members of religious groups, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of survey data from the United States and more than two dozen other countries.
Religiously active people also tend to smoke and drink less, but they are nothealthier in terms of exercise frequency and rates of obesity. Nor, in most countries, are highly religious people more likely to rate themselves as being in very good overall health – though the U.S. is among the possible exceptions.
In the U.S., 58% of actively religious adults say they are also active in at least one other (nonreligious) kind of voluntary organization, including charity groups, sports clubs or labor unions. Only about half of all inactively religious adults (51%) and fewer than half of the unaffiliated (39%) say the same.7