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September 23, 2008

public opinion about "community organizing"

(Washington, DC) Sarah Palin and Rudy Guiliani used the phrase "community organizer" as an epithet at the Republican National Convention, evidently hoping that many Americans would associate the phrase with leftists (or perhaps with urban minorities). I think this was a mistake. In the 2008 Civic Health Index (pdf), we had asked respondents to offer any words that came to mind when they heard the phrase "community organizing" (along with "service," "democracy," "citizenship," and several others).

The most common category of responses to "community organizing" (at 31%) involved helping others locally. These responses suggested that the respondents basically identified community organizing with volunteering or charity, although sometimes there was an emphasis on the process of being organized (e.g., “group of people getting together for one cause”). Older respondents were less likely to mention helping behaviors. Twenty-one percent said they did not know what this phrase meant. Ten percent gave a vague positive response (“good,” “important”) and five percent offered a vague negative answer (“opinionated,” “pushy,” or “waste of time”). Almost 6% mentioned a particular community organization such as the YMCA, labor unions, or a neighborhood watch. A total of about 5% either cited political activity or the government in some way. When the survey was conducted in July, only seven individuals out of almost 700 respondents mentioned Barack Obama, who had worked as a community organizer.

September 23, 2008 7:26 AM | category: none

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