Missourians more likely to volunteer, less likely to talk politics

Jan 20, 2014

Credit Yiqian Zhang / KBIA

Missourians are more likely to volunteer and to do favors for a neighbor than the average American. But their level of civic engagement depends greatly on their circumstances.

A new report on the state’s civic health, issued by six Missouri universities and the National Conference on Citizenship, found that Missouri largely aligns with the rest of the nation on community involvement.

The report measured political activity, but also whether residents volunteered, helped their neighbors, or attended public meetings. 

Michael Stout, an associate professor at Missouri State University and co-author of the report, says many people underestimate the difference they could make by getting involved.

“When we think about how to address the issues that face our communities, we tend to think about government or the private sector,” Stout said. “We don’t talk a lot about the role our communities can play, and the human element - the neighbors we have, the relationships we nurture.”

The report showed that Missourians who volunteer tend to be more involved in other civic activities as well.

Yemi Akande-Bartsch, with the nonprofit group FOCUS St. Louis, says there’s enormous potential for change when individuals are engaged.

“We need to know our neighbors,” Akande-Bartsch said. “We need to be able to have a bigger network, so we can do work that’s in the greater good of the community and leave a legacy that’s impactful.”

Both nationally and locally, some people are more involved than others.

“It’s those of means – those that have advanced education, those that make more money – they’re the ones who are volunteering and who are involved in politics,” says Amanda Moore McBride of Washington University, who also helped write the report. “That raises great concerns around justice.”

The report found that residents of St. Louis, in particular, were more likely to be registered to vote, but less likely to take non-electoral action like discussing politics with friends.

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