UMass Donahue Institute  
The Civic Benchmarks Poll

The Need
The University of Massachusetts Civic Initiative is dedicated to Civic Education at home and abroad. The Civic Benchmark poll will provide a unique perspective on the health of democracy and free institutions within Massachusetts. Massachusetts is home to one of the oldest constitutional democracies in the world. Our citizens have lived under the same constitution for over 200 years. We are now living at a critical time for our democracy. As Americans, we are engaged in an aggressive effort to export Democracy while, at the same time, our own rates of participation and trust decline. As we seek to inspire and teach Democracy all over the world, it is time for an honest and in-depth look at the workings of democracy here in Massachusetts.

Initiative Goals
The Civic Benchmark Poll will gather, present, and compare information in the following areas:

  • Civic Knowledge – What do citizens know about government?
  • Civic Attitudes – What do citizens think about government?
  • Civic Participation – How do citizens participate in public life?
  • Civic Information – How and where are Civic attitudes formed?

Once collected that material will then be used to:

  • Compare results over time and across towns and cities
  • Present the information to the public via a web site, articles, conferences and media coverage
  • Develop a series of measurable “benchmarks” designed to track progress
  • Assist in the development of a civic improvement policy agenda
  • Provide businesses, government, universities, and non-profits with specific civic improvement action items

The Poll will involve cooperative efforts with:

  • Foundations and advocacy groups
  • Politicians and the media
  • Universities
  • Students and researchers

The end product of will include:

  • A non-partisan analysis of ways to improve civic life in Massachusetts
  • Policy and legislative recommendations to increase the quantity and quality of participation
  • A set of civic benchmarks and a process for tracking those benchmarks over time
  • A data source for scholars and writers interested in participation at the state and local level


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