Studies Highlight Disengagement Among Illinois and Chicago Citizens

Dec 08, 2010, 01:01 ET from National Conference on Citizenship

Deficits Particularly Pronounced Among State's Youngest Residents

CHICAGO, Dec. 8, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The civic health of Illinois, and the Chicago region in particular, is ailing. Two new reports released today by the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC) show that Chicago-area and Illinois residents are less likely to vote, attend a public meeting, and pitch in with neighbors compared to national averages. However, although national averages in accessing news and information are appallingly low, residents of Illinois and the Chicago region compare favorably on this measure. The reports also found that the state's youngest generation continues to lag behind their elders in a number of areas, a surprising finding given recent national participation trends.

Co-sponsored by the Chicago-based McCormick Foundation and the Elmhurst, IL-based Citizen Advocacy Center, the Chicago Civic Health Index and the Illinois Civic Health Index are designed to help document the strength of participatory democracy in the region and state. The report follows the September release of a national report Civic Life in America: Key Findings on the Civic Health of the Nation, developed jointly by NCoC and the Corporation for National and Community Service to provide an annual measure of civic habits, much as the government measures economic behavior.

"The studies highlight major challenges to citizen participation in Chicago and beyond," said David Hiller, McCormick Foundation President and CEO. "We believe improving access to youth civic education and engagement opportunities can be part of the solution."

Chicago area residents and their statewide counterparts trail their national peers on most measures of civic health, and Millennials (born after 1980) lag even further behind on leading participatory indicators.

"Illinois cannot afford another generation of civic deterioration," says Michael Weiser, Chairman of the National Conference on Citizenship.  "Strengthening civic learning opportunities for its young people is the most important thing Illinois can do to secure its future."

Key Findings

  • Illinois ranked 37th in voter turnout among citizens 18 and older in the November 2008 election. Notably, Illinois' voter turnout declined by three percentage points compared with the average turnout for the 2004 Presidential election despite former Illinois Senator Barack Obama being on the ballot in 2008. Voter turnout in Chicago mirrored these statewide trends.
  • Breaking down the 2008 vote in the Chicago region along generational lines, Baby Boomers (born from 1946-1964) were the most likely to vote, followed by Generation Xers (1964-1980), and members of the Silent Generation (born 1945 or earlier). Less than half of Millennials, born after 1980, voted in 2008.
  • On measures of non-electoral participation, Chicago area and Illinois residents were less likely to attend a public meeting where political issues are discussed than their national peers.
  • Illinois ranked 46th in the rate of people 18 and older who exchanged favors with their neighbors at least a few times a week. Favors includes acts of kindness, such as watching each other's children, helping with shopping, house sitting, lending garden or house tools, and others. Chicago area residents rank higher on this measure, but also lag behind the national average.
  • Statewide and Chicago area residents talk politics more frequently with friends and/or family, and are more apt to gather news from newspapers, news magazines, TV, radio, and proliferating Internet news sources compared with their nationwide counterparts.
  • Millennials in the Chicago area are much less attentive to the news than their older peers. A little more than one-third of 18-29 year-olds read a daily newspaper compared with more than half of those over 30. Similar disparities surface for television and radio news.

"It is important to emphasize that the civic health of Chicago and Illinois are not beyond repair," Hiller said. "Civic renewal is within reach, and it is incumbent for citizens, elected officials, schools, and community organizations to do their part in rebuilding local democracy."

To read the full Chicago Civic Health Index 2010, visit

To read the full Illinois Civic Health Index 2010, visit

About the McCormick Foundation

The McCormick Foundation is committed to fostering communities of educated, informed and engaged citizens. Through philanthropic programs, Cantigny Park and Golf, and museums, the Foundation helps develop citizen leaders and works to make life better in our communities. The Foundation was established as a charitable trust in 1955, upon the death of Colonel Robert R. McCormick, the longtime editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune. The McCormick Foundation is one of the nation's largest foundations, with more than $1 billion in assets. For more information, please visit

About the Citizen Advocacy Center

The Citizen Advocacy Center is a nonprofit, community based legal organization dedicated to building democracy for the 21st century by increasing the citizenry's capacities, resources, and institutions for self-governance.  Since 1994, Citizen Advocacy Center community lawyers have empowered individuals, community groups, and youth to engage in the democratic process by understanding the process of government decision-making and how to flex their civic muscles.  For more information on programs and resources, please visit

About The National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC)

Founded in 1946 and Chartered by Congress in 1953, the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC) is a leader in strengthening our nation's civic life. In partnership with over 250 organizations, NCoC tracks, measures and promotes civic participation. Through this work, NCoC helps define modern citizenship in America. More information can be found at

SOURCE National Conference on Citizenship