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Civic Engagement Highest in Developed Countries

Civic Engagement Highest in Developed Countries

by Cynthia English

This is part one of two in a series of articles looking at civic engagement around the world.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Gallup studies worldwide show people with high civic engagement are positive about the communities where they live and actively give back to them. Data from 130 countries show that, in general, adults in developed countries are much more likely to be civically engaged than those in the developing world.


Gallup measures civic engagement by assessing individuals' likelihood to volunteer their time and assistance to others. Respondents are asked whether they have done any of the following in the past month: donated money to a charity, volunteered time to an organization, or helped a stranger or someone they didn't know who needed help. In 127 out of 130 countries, people are much more likely to either say they have helped a stranger in need or donated money in the past month than they are to say they volunteered their time to an organization.

Gallup combines people's responses to these three questions to create a Civic Engagement Index score for each country, with higher scores indicating a higher level of civic engagement. While the most civically engaged countries are primarily in the developed world, the level of participation in each activity the index measures varies significantly among countries. For example, 83% of Thais say they donated money to charity in the past month, among the highest levels in the world. However, 16% say they volunteered their time. Conversely, Americans are much less likely than Thais to say they donated money, but Americans are among the most likely in the world to say they volunteered their time.

Least Civically Engaged Countries

Six of the 11 countries with the lowest levels of civic engagement are located in the Balkans and southern Europe. In each of these countries, the likelihood to participate in these activities is well below the world averages. The only exceptions are the one in four in Bosnia and Herzegovina who say they donated money to a charity in the past month and the 44% of Algerians who helped a stranger.


Bottom Line

Measuring global civic engagement and identifying key indicators of these behaviors are essential to developing methods for improving community well-being. In the second article of this series, Gallup will explore the relationship between civic engagement, education, well-being, and religiosity.

For complete country-level results, see page 2.

For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact or call 202.715.3030.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone/face-to-face interviews with approximately 1,000 adults in 127 countries, 2,000 adults in Russia, 4,150 in China, and 6,000 adults in India, aged 15 and older, conducted in 2009 and 2010. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error ranged from a low of ±1.7 percentage points in India to a high of ±4.7 percentage points in Haiti. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.



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