2020 New Hampshire Civic Health Index

What is Civic Health?

In this report, as in the 2012 edition, we define civic health as “distinct from, yet interconnected with, other forms of well-being, including physical and mental health and access to basic needs for food, shelter, and clothing.”

Civic health refers specifically to the ways in which residents of a community (or state) participate in civic activities that strengthen social capital, enhance interconnections, build trust, help each other, talk about public issues and challenges, volunteer in government and non-profit organizations, stay informed about their communities, and participate directly in crafting solutions to various social and economic challenges. Civic health is related to and supported by civic learning processes, which Rajiv Vinnakota of the Institute for Citizens and Scholars1 defines as:

  • Volunteering
  • Participation in community decision-making processes (council hearings, etc.)
  • Learning from multiple and diverse sources of news to formulate an opinion on public policy
  • Letters to the editors
  • Belonging to civic service organizations, including religious institutions
  • Philanthropic support and engagement
  • Political engagement with political parties, election processes, ballot initiatives, and advocacy

Recording from the Civic Health Index Rollout Event, March 25, 2020


The rollout event for the 2020 New Hampshire Civic Health Index was held March 25, 2020, and included members of the Carsey School, NH Listens, the National Conference on Citizenship, and the Civic Health Advisory Council.

You can also watch the entire recording on our YouTube page

Civic Health Outcomes

The civic health outcomes section is organized around three categories of civic health indicators.

To better understand how civic health is experienced by different populations, we focused on several subgroups. The analyses that follow illustrate the relationship between various kinds of civic activities and specific demographic characteristics. These include:

  • Education achievement level
  • Income
  • Place (urban, rural, suburban) and region (Central/Lakes, Connecticut Valley, Manchester Area, Mass Border, North Country, Seacoast)
  • Gender
  • Age

Although examining data on race and ethnicity is incredibly important for understanding how civic experiences vary in New Hampshire, unfortunately due to the small percentages of people of color living in the state, there was not sufficient data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey to draw civic health comparisons by race and ethnicity. The Fall 2019 Granite State Poll did not collect demographic information concerning a respondent’s racial and ethnic identification due to the small number of people in New Hampshire who identify with groups other than ‘Caucasian/White.’ When those data are available from other sources, we include it. In others words, people of color were surveyed in both the Census and Granite State poll data, but the sample sizes were too small to provide reliable demographic analysis by race and ethnicity.

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Who Are We?

Understanding New Hampshire’s Demographic Composition

These metrics tell us that New Hampshire is experienced in various ways by its diverse residents. Opportunities to thrive, to be a contributing member of one’s community, to feel welcome and included are not the same regardless of where one lives or works or one’s social identity. The 2020 Index unpacks some of these differences as they relate to engagement, social capital, and how our residents interact with and trust each other.

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New Hampshire is one of the smallest states in the country as a function of both geographic size and population. Our population in 2018 was 1.36 million people, making us the ninth smallest state in the United States. This represents a 3% increase since 2000, a modest gain, especially compared to our growth in previous decades.2

We are the second oldest state in the country, with a median age of 43. We are “top heavy” with more residents over 65 and fewer young adults compared to other states.3

Only 42% of New Hampshire residents were born here, much lower than the New England and national averages.4

We are an increasingly diverse state. Hispanic, Asian, and African-American residents all tripled in number between 2000 and 2017. In 2016, 14% of all residents below 18 years old belonged to communities of color. In Manchester and Nashua, more than 30% of those below 18 are young people of color. These youngsters are New Hampshire’s future, and they will play a significant role in our future civic health.5

We are a relatively wealthy state, consistently ranked among the top ten states in the country measured by household income. Our overall poverty rates are among the lowest in the United States (less than 8% poverty rate in New Hampshire vs. 11.8% nationwide). As in other states, our childhood poverty rate of 11% is higher than the rate for the general population.6

Residents of New Hampshire are well educated compared to the rest of the country; 36.5% of the population holds a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 32% in the United States.11

Children in Coös County and the southwest region of the state have poverty rates two to three times higher than that of children in other regions. Five counties (Coös, Cheshire, Grafton, Strafford, and Sullivan) have overall poverty rates of 10% or higher.7 Hispanic and African-American residents have poverty rates twice as high as white residents.8 Ten percent of non-Hispanic white children in New Hampshire live in poverty compared to 24% of Hispanic children who live in poverty.9 Over one-third of single female-headed households with children under five live below the poverty line.

Measures of health and income vary considerably in New Hampshire when comparing the experiences of different racial and ethnic demographic groups. For example, 14.6% fewer African-Americans hold a bachelor’s degree than Whites in New Hampshire. The paychecks of African-Americans in New Hampshire are 39% smaller than those of Whites, one of the largest income gaps among the 50 states.12 The COVID-19 pandemic has also disproportionately impacted communities of color. In early May, 2020, the rate of infection for Whites, who constitute 90% of the state’s population, was 76.4%; for Hispanics/Latinos, who constitute 3.9% of the population, the infection rate was 7.4%; for African-Americans, who constitute 1.5% of the population, the infection rate was 5.4%.13

Income inequality within New Hampshire is relatively high, and it is increasing rapidly. Based on one accepted measure of income inequality, the Gini index, between 2010 and 2019 New Hampshire had the second-highest increase in income inequality in the United States, second only to Wyoming. By contrast, Vermont has had almost no increase in income inequality in the same time period.10

New Hampshire’s public education system, a bedrock of civic health and opportunity, reflects regional differences tied to local property wealth, a function of how we fund our schools. Related to both local real estate values and community size, per pupil spending ranges from around $12,000 in some districts to $35-40,000 in others.14 Student experiences may vary with these different levels of investment, which in turn can have consequences for their later participation in public life.

Key Findings

Successes and Areas of Growth

New Hampshire has some things to celebrate when it comes to the strength of its civic health. The Granite State ranked:

  • Second in the nation in charitable giving of $25 or more in the past year
  • Fifth in the nation in voting in the 2016 election
  • Fifth in the nation in connecting regularly with friends and family
  • Sixth in attending public meetings

In addition,

  • Granite Staters volunteered at the highest rates measured since 2002
  • The majority of New Hampshire residents feel they matter to their community and can make an impact
  • In midterm elections in 2018, the state achieved the highest voter turnout since 1978

However, there are aspects of our civic health that need attention, as well as some warning signs that our civic health could be at risk in the future.

Although Granite Staters demonstrated relatively strong civic health in categories such as Volunteering and Giving and Civic Awareness and Engagement, residents displayed more of a mixed bag in Connecting in Community. Voter turnout has declined in the last two presidential elections, 2012 and 2016. Since 2001, trust in the national government has fallen dramatically, and trust in local government and local news media is also declining. Granite Staters reported that they feel more barriers to engagement than they did in 2001. There was a large disparity between what Granite Staters did civically with friends and family compared with what they did with their neighbors. For example:

  • Granite Staters ranked in the top ten in the nation for connecting with friends and family regularly (5th) and talking about political, societal, or local issues with friends and family (7th).
  • Granite Staters ranked toward the bottom in the nation when it came to connecting with neighbors regularly (38th), talking with neighbors about political, societal, or local issues (33rd), and doing favors for neighbors (40th).15 Part of this disparity may relate to trust in those outside one’s immediate social circle—since 2001, Granite Staters’ trust in their neighbors has also declined.

New Hampshire residents ranked very low compared with national averages in terms of:

  • Posting their views about political, societal, or local issues online (38th).
  • Helping out friends or extended family with food, housing, or money (45th).
  • New Hampshire ranked in the bottom five states in the nation in terms of connecting with people of different racial, ethnic, or cultural backgrounds (46th).

We noticed six key themes in our analysis of New Hampshire Civic Health Index data.

It is clear that the demographic characteristics of our residents have a relationship to civic health, a finding consistent with the 2012 New Hampshire Civic Health Index. In particular, education levels and age appear to have a large impact on Granite Staters’ civic health. Income affects civic health in different ways—although higher income individuals tend to vote more often, give financially, or volunteer more, lower income individuals tend to help out their neighbors more. Other variables, like where people live, their political identity, and if they had experienced civics education in school also seemed to impact civic health in varying ways. What this suggests is that not everyone has access to civic health in the same ways—for instance, the personal circumstances for people (such as disposable income or time they have to spend on non-work or family responsibilities) and the way systems are constructed (such as how voting opportunities may conflict with work schedules or access to transportation) have a bearing on both how motivated and able people are to contribute to the civic health of their communities.

The 2020 New Hampshire Civic Health Index presents three interesting voting trends to consider:

  • First, although our voting rates in all types of elections are stronger than national averages, from 2004 to 2016 we saw a steady decline in presidential election voter turnout.
  • Second, despite a decline in presidential election voter turnout, in the last midterm elections in 2018 we saw the highest level of turnout since 1978.16
  • Third, in the most recent presidential election of 2020, 73 percent of New Hampshire’s voting age population turned out—the highest turnout since 1964.17

These declines and increases in voting have mirrored national trends, although the spike in midterm election voting was more pronounced in New Hampshire than were national averages. It is important to note that this report was completed in December of 2020, we were not able to mine the 2020 voter turnout data for demographic distinctions, so as future researchers examine who in New Hampshire voted in the 2020 presidential election, we may have more insight into presidential election voter trends in both New Hampshire and the nation.

Even with our overall strong voter turnout, based on voter data from the past decade, we have reasons to be concerned about voting in New Hampshire. Those with a college degree are much more likely to vote than are those with only a high school degree, and the more education one has, the more likely one is to vote. People with a high income—who make $75,000 or more—were much more likely than people with a very low income—$35,000 or less—to vote. But what is interesting is that although lower income and lower educated groups often get stereotyped as being unable or unmotivated to participate in civic life, our data suggest this is not the case—for instance, when it comes to doing favors for neighbors and helping out friends or extended family, low-income people do this more than any other income group.

Our data indicate that less educated and lower income people are less likely to vote or engage in other ways due to specific obstacles that make them less able to participate in civic life. A striking ninety-seven percent (97%) of New Hampshire residents who did not vote in 2016 also reported that work schedules or inadequate childcare created obstacles or barriers to their community engagement. Seventy-nine percent (79%) of New Hampshire residents who did not vote in 2016 reported that a lack of transportation was a barrier to their community engagement. The majority of people who did not vote in 2016 also reported they experienced barriers to participating in civic life such as feeling unwelcome, lacking the needed information, or feeling they could not make a difference. People who did not vote in 2016 were less likely to feel they mattered to their community or that people like themselves could make an impact on making their community better.

Note: The data below were collected in the fall of 2019, prior to the pandemic as well as protests directed at law enforcement, so it may be helpful for the reader to consider that trust in institutions and neighbors may have been further eroded by events in 2020.

New Hampshire residents’ trust in public institutions is declining. Since 2001, trust in the national government has fallen by half. Trust is also declining in local government and local media outlets, though not as rapidly as the decline in trust of the national government. This declining trust signals a period of insecurity in New Hampshire—where public institutions may need to work to demonstrate they are reliable and effective entities that Granite Staters can count on.

Further, New Hampshire residents’ trust in their neighbors has declined. There are many factors that may be at play to explain this decline in trust, including our national and local political polarization and volatility, stresses about finances and the economy, and an influx of newcomers to the state. New Hampshire is becoming more racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse than ever before. However, we rank in the bottom five states when it comes to how frequently we interact with people of a different racial, ethnic, or cultural background than ourselves—which may speak both to opportunities to interact with others as well as our willingness to do so. Within some demographic groups, these trends are magnified further. New Hampshire residents 18-34 years old trust their neighbors much less than other age groups. Older generations are less likely to interact with people from different racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds than their own. However, New Hampshire has the second oldest population in the nation—so many of our residents fall within this “older” demographic.

In other words, the above dynamics point to civic health risk factors. If younger people are not trusting their neighbors, and older people are not frequently interacting with people from different racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds at the same time that our major populations centers are becoming more racially and ethnically diverse, this could lay the ground for discrimination, misunderstanding, and potential conflict among people different from each other in New Hampshire communities. The reflections section at the end of this report will speak to this dynamic.

Education overwhelmingly makes a difference in the way Granite Staters participate and take action in political and civic life in their communities, as well as how they connect with others. This finding is consistent both with New Hampshire’s history—we came to similar conclusions in the 2012 New Hampshire Civic Health Index—and with national trends related to civic health.18 On virtually all of the civic health indicators, Granite Staters who had a college education tended to demonstrate stronger levels of civic health than did those with a high school degree. There were only two indicators where this was not true—people with a high school degree tended to do more when it came to doing favors for neighbors, and they also do more when it comes to helping out friends and extended family.

New Hampshire residents who hold a college degree are much more likely to vote and attend public meetings. They are also much more likely to feel they can make a positive impact and that they matter to their community.

Further, our data suggest that civics education also makes a significant difference in the ability to navigate and participate effectively in civic life. For instance, New Hampshire residents who received civics education in school are much more likely to:

  • Trust the local media and local government
  • Know how to get involved and participate in problem solving in their community
  • Feel they matter to people in their community
  • Feel that people like themselves can make an impact in their community

It also appears that civics education is associated in several ways with more effective participation in civic life. A significant 80% of Granite Staters who identified “a lack of information or not knowing where to start” as a barrier to their community engagement also reported that they had not received civics education in school.

Since education levels can be a proxy for social class and income, it might lead one to jump to the conclusion that civic health is related to social class—and those with more wealth and higher incomes and more education might also be those who exhibit higher levels of civic participation. However, this may not be the case. Although for some civic health indicators, income appears to be associated with stronger civic health, there is considerable variability in how income relates to New Hampshire’s civic life, and in fact lower income people demonstrated strengths on several civic indicators. But without a doubt, education (both achievement and access to civics education) influences Granite Staters’ civic habits, attitudes, and subsequent participation in their communities.

One’s income is highly related to whether and how one participates in civic life. Higher income people tended to vote more, connect more with family and friends, and connect more with people of a different racial or ethnic group. Higher income Granite Staters, those who make $75,000 or more, showed the highest levels of civic health overall.19 Those in the lowest income group were the most likely to do a favor for a neighbor or help others out.

But lower middle-income people in New Hampshire, presumably lots of individuals in “working class” occupations, demonstrate some intriguing civic trends. Although this population is highly engaged politically, they participate at lower levels in other civic behaviors such as voting in national elections, volunteering, and financial giving. These individuals, who earn between $35,000 to $49,999, led all income groups in five categories including:

  • Engaging with news by reading, watching, or listening to news or information about political, societal, or local issues
  • Posting views online about political, societal, or local issues
  • Talking with friends and family about political, societal or local issues
  • Talking with neighbors about political, societal or local issues
  • Interacting with public officials to express their opinion

In other words, lower middle-income Granite Staters are paying attention to the news, talking about it with others, sharing their views with public leaders and with their broader networks online. Lower middle-income New Hampshire residents also demonstrated strengths in attending public meetings and connecting with people of different racial, ethnic, or cultural groups.

However, although lower middle-income people in New Hampshire show up for local elections, when it comes to midterm or presidential voting, they participate less often than other income groups. Further, lower middle-income Granite Staters demonstrate a mixed bag of results when connecting in community and volunteering. Lower middle-income Granite Staters are also less likely to participate in groups or volunteer on a regular basis or engage in political or charitable giving.

This gap in participation raises important questions—why are lower middle-income New Hampshire residents more likely to think and talk about politics but less likely to vote in national elections? We did not have access to sufficient longitudinal data to determine if lower middle-income Granite Staters’ behavior has changed in recent years, or if their behavior is indicative of longer-term trends. But what we can determine from this data is that lower middle-income people in New Hampshire are interested in contemporary issues. Lower levels of activity in areas such as charitable giving and voting may be related to having less discretionary income and working in occupations that do not allow the flexibility or access needed to vote during weekday polling hours, not because of disinterest or lack of will. However, lower middle income individuals do vote locally, which suggests there may be other explanations for this disparity between engagement and voting in national elections.

People of different ages participate in public life to different degrees and in different ways. Although Millennials demonstrate strengths in a few civic health indicators, overall Millennials rank below other generations in their civic awareness and engagement, connections in community, and volunteering and giving. Millennials participate in public life through posting online and volunteering. However, Millennials demonstrate lower rates than other generations in:

  • Voting in all types of elections
  • Paying attention to news
  • Trusting, helping, and connecting with neighbors
  • Going to public meetings
  • Engaging with public officials
  • Trusting local media
  • Belonging to groups, such as recreational groups, civic or service organizations, spiritual communities, and political groups
  • Giving to charitable or political causes
  • Knowing how to get involved and participate in local problem solving
  • Feeling they matter to their community

Younger people in New Hampshire also report higher rates of experiencing barriers or obstacles to civic engagement compared to other generations.

However, one should not conclude from this data that Millennials do not want to be connected with others—in fact Millennials connect more with friends and family than any other generation. And second only to Generation X, New Hampshire Millennials are interacting more with people from a different racial, ethnic, or cultural background than are Boomers or the Silent and Long Generation—a trend that may be connected to the demographic shifts occurring in the state.

But these results are concerning. If Millennials are not expressing their views to public officials, either by attending meetings or voting, and if they aren’t paying attention to news, this suggests that the priorities and needs of Millennials are also likely not being heard by elected decision-makers. Although it is possible that certain dispositions or attitudes of the Millennial generation affect their participation, we should exercise caution before jumping to this conclusion. For instance, our data suggest that younger generations in New Hampshire are less likely to know how to get involved, more likely to experience barriers to participating, and—perhaps most importantly—more likely to feel they do not matter to their community.

It is difficult to know exactly why Millennials are experiencing disparities in civic health, and our recommendations suggest paths to address this trend. It may be that the way civic health measures are structured to not correspond to how Millennials are engaging. It is possible that what we are seeing in New Hampshire corresponds to national studies that suggest American youth are increasingly isolated and report feelings of loneliness more than other generations.20 The Granite State Poll indicates that New Hampshire youth are also more worried than other generations about drug use in the state.21 All of this begs the question of the relationship between civic health with mental and physical health. Further, in a culture of unprecedented social isolation due to COVID-19, it is important to consider how fear and a lack of trust in others might continue to erode civic health in the long term.


How Can We Work Together to Sustain and Strengthen Civic Health in the Granite State?

What the Civic Health tool means for local, regional, and state level actions.

Although the findings of the 2020 Civic Health Index were overall positive, significant threats to New Hampshire’s civic health exist. These threats are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, downturns in the national and state economy, and other political and social developments such as those associated with the 2020 Presidential Election and the newly energized movement for racial justice embodied by Black Lives Matter.

It is important when digesting this report to recognize that the data on New Hampshire’s Civic Health were collected in 2017 through the fall of 2019, when the state and national landscape was quite different. We can guess how the events of 2020 will impact New Hampshire’s civic health—but the reality is, the future is somewhat uncertain. Will the challenges of the pandemic bring our communities closer together or push them further apart? For instance, it is not clear how the financial stresses, social isolation, and public health risks of COVID-19 will affect how much Granite Staters engage with their neighbors, family and friends, and public officials. We also don’t have enough data yet to assess how the transition from in-person to online meetings is affecting civic life.

Data from the 2020 Civic Health Index indicate that overall most Granite Staters don’t frequently interact with people from a different racial or ethnic group. Although, historically, this trend might have been explained by low levels of diversity in a predominately white state, the demographics in the state are changing significantly, particularly in southern New Hampshire. Further, the significant disparities made clear by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on communities of color suggest that if New Hampshire is not proactive in creating equitable systems and addressing NH residents’ lack of exposure to difference and how that could breed discrimination, the result could be even larger disparities not only in public health, but in civic health.

Based on what we have learned about New Hampshire’s civic health over time, we offer suggestions below as reflections on potential next steps that can be taken at the public, civic, and private sectors to assure robust civic health into the future. We begin with those indicators where New Hampshire is ranked significantly lower than other states. In order to strengthen our civic health, we must begin with those areas where there is the most room and need for improvement. We envision multiple sectors, organizations, and actors taking on the kinds of initiatives described here.

At the individual as well as institutional and systemic levels, we must find ways to bring people together across racial, ethnic, cultural, political, and social identities.

New Hampshire is ranked in the bottom third of the country with respect to connecting with and doing favors for neighbors; talking with neighbors about political, social, and local issues; helping friends or family with food, housing, or money; and connecting with people of different racial, ethnic, or cultural backgrounds (we are near the very bottom on this indicator). Younger residents (18-34) are least likely to trust their neighbors, and the oldest residents are least likely to connect with those of different racial or ethnic identities. Targeted efforts with these two groups to increase trust and offer greater opportunities for social interaction are important means to strengthen our civic health. As Jonathan Haidt has written, “The only cure for bias is other people.”22 Increased interactions with those who are different may increase trust, and therefore it is imperative we offer engagement opportunities across social difference. This may help to protect New Hampshire against becoming a more divided and segregated state while maintaining our “Live Free or Die” culture, where part of what makes us unique is our freedom to be different and yet be in community together.

While New Hampshire has relatively high voter turnout in presidential election years, we are in the middle during mid-term elections, and some populations demonstrate lower voting than others.

And specific groups are less likely to vote at all—those without post-secondary education, Millennials, and those who did not receive civics education during their schooling. Those who are less likely to vote also report far more barriers to getting involved in their communities (including work schedules, lack of transportation, inadequate childcare, not knowing how to find out about opportunities for engagement, and feeling unwelcome or that their participation would not make any difference). Not voting, therefore, is highly associated with many barriers to getting involved. Targeted efforts to increase voter participation among those with less education and those in the 18-34 age range can help to enfranchise these groups.

Receiving civics education in elementary or secondary school is associated with many types of civic engagement.

Those who report they received civics education also reported higher rates of voting, more knowledge about how to get involved in their communities, more trust in media and government, and feeling that they matter to their communities. It is therefore important that all New Hampshire students complete a civics education curriculum that provides them with the skills and knowledge needed to function as informed citizens. This will have diffuse effects across various kinds of engagement and participation.

There has been an erosion of trust, the basic ingredient of social capital, over the past two decades.

This includes trust in key social institutions as well as trust in neighbors. Many people, especially those with lower incomes and less education, feel unwelcome at public meetings. One response to this erosion of trust is to create opportunities for people to spend time together, hear each other’s views, and participate in shared actions to address community challenges. The planned design and creation of civic infrastructures can offer places and spaces for connection, conversation, and collaboration. This can include attention to the built environment to be sure it fosters social interactions, changes in the ways that public meetings are conducted so they are more deliberative and less adversarial, and material resources to make it easier to help neighbors connect (e.g., loaner tool sheds, makerspaces, community gardens). Public libraries are increasingly playing a leadership role in this kind of community connecting and resource sharing and can be hubs for social connections and conversation that lead to greater social capital. They can include the use of visual and expressive arts as a means for shared activity, fun, and creative problem-solving. Activities that emphasize cross-cultural and cross-generational understanding are especially important as ways to increase trust and enhance understanding across difference. Although creating such opportunities can be more challenging during a pandemic, creating meaningful digital and safe in-person engagement opportunities are also possible, as we have learned this year.

There are a number of barriers faced by residents when it comes to showing up and expressing their views.

Attending public gatherings, including to vote, is hampered by lack of transportation, lack of childcare, competing work schedules, and not knowing how to get involved. Municipal governments in partnership with schools and nonprofit organizations can do a better job of informing residents about how to get involved, how to make their voices heard, and how decisions get made in city councils, schools, conservation commissions, and so on. Not only is information about civic activity and opportunity important, but creating a sense that all voices from people of all backgrounds are welcome is critical to overcoming the perception by some that they are not welcome or respected in civic spaces. Accessible information available in multiple media formats, in residents’ primary languages and conveyed in culturally sensitive ways (e.g., through familiar peers) is necessary to foster participation. In addition, offering opportunities to participate during hours that align with families’ schedules (including during flexible work hours sanctioned by employers) and offering shared transportation and on-site childcare at public gatherings also help to overcome the barriers reported most often.

As this report has shown, regular assessment of civic health both at the state and at the regional or town levels is necessary in order to track trends over time and identify necessary policies and practices that can increase participation and engagement.

Such assessments could be carried out by regional planning and economic development councils or other entities with related capacity and missions. More regional and local assessment of civic health could address at a more granular level the disparities that the 2020 data have demonstrated at the state level. Regional and local data can also point to patterns of income inequality that are associated with differences in civic behaviors. The consistent relationship between income and civic participation, mediated by educational achievement, points to the need to address the growing income gap as a means to foster civic health. In this light, economic development at the regional and local level is an important tool, among others, to stronger civic life. Thus, regular assessment of civic health can be connected to other measures of well-being, including economic conditions, in order to design effective strategies that can increase the number and variety of those who show up, express their views, help each other out, and vote for those who represent them. Because we don’t know how the pandemic in particular will affect New Hampshire’s civic health, assessments of local and state dynamics sooner rather than later will be critical in order for us to both understand and effectively respond to new needs that this unique moment in history presents.

Further research is needed, particularly data related to race and ethnicity.

As a note, there were several areas where our data were a helpful start but not sufficient to painting the full picture of civic life in New Hampshire—in particular, we need more data about New Hampshire’s civic health in relation to race, ethnicity, and culture, as well as further data about our charitable giving. It may be helpful to include local people in New Hampshire communities in the data collection and data analysis process, as they will be able to identify resources and challenges in ways that researchers who do not live in the community may miss. Since racial and ethnic data have historically not been available from the sources that we drew this report from, we may need to conduct additional studies with oversampling to attain sufficient race and ethnicity data, or create new data collection methods that surface how race and ethnicity affect civic health.  

Findings in this report are from two key data sources—the National Conference on Citizenship’s (NCoC) analysis of the U.S. Census Current Population Survey (CPS) data as well as the University of New Hampshire’s Survey Center’s Granite State Poll from October, 2019. Volunteering and Civic Engagement estimates are from CPS September Volunteering/Civic Engagement Supplement from 2017 and voting estimates from 2018 November Voting and Registration Supplement. Any and all errors related to data from the CPS are NCoC’s own. Any and all errors related to data from the Granite State Poll are the University of New Hampshire’s Survey Center and Carsey School of Public Policy’s own. To test relationships between variables, we used chi-square tests.

Current Population Survey Information

Using a probability selected sample of about 150,000 occupied households, the CPS collects monthly data on employment and demographic characteristics of the nation. Depending on the CPS supplement, the single-year New Hampshire CPS sample size used for this report ranges from 344-952 (volunteering/civic engagement supplement) and to 1,247 (voting supplement) residents from across New Hampshire. This sample is then weighted to representative population demographics for the district. Estimates for the volunteering and civic engagement indicators (e.g., volunteering, working with neighbors, making donations) are based on U.S. residents ages 16 and older. Voting and registration statistics are based on U.S. citizens who are 18 and older (eligible voters). When we examined the relationship between educational attainment and engagement, estimates are based on adults ages 25 and older with the assumption that younger people may be completing their education.

Because multiple sources of data with varying sample sizes are used, the report is not able to compute one margin of error for New Hampshire across all indicators. Any analysis that breaks down the sample into smaller groups (e.g., gender, education) will have smaller samples and therefore the margin of error will increase. Furthermore, national rankings, while useful in benchmarking, may be small in range, with one to two percentage points separating the state/district ranked first from the state/district ranked last. It is also important that our margin of error estimates are approximate, as CPS sampling is highly complex and accurate estimation of error rates involves many parameters that are not publicly available.

Granite State Poll Information

The University of New Hampshire Survey Center conducts statewide polling, including a quarterly public opinion survey called the Granite State Poll. In the October 2019 Granite State Poll, researchers Bruce Mallory and Quixada Moore-Vissing added to the poll fifteen questions drawn from the Social Capital Community Benchmarks Survey as well as their own original questions. The Social Capital Community Benchmarks Survey is a national survey related to civic engagement in America that was designed by the Saguaro Seminar at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University in 2000. The survey was run in communities across the country, including in the state of New Hampshire in 2001. Thus we were able to use these questions for a 19-year retrospective of civic engagement in New Hampshire. Five hundred seven (507) randomly selected New Hampshire adults were interviewed in English by landline and cellular telephone between October 4 and October 17, 2019. The margin of error for the survey is +/- 4.4 percent.

As a note, the Current Population Survey and the Granite State Poll work with different timelines, which can add to confusion in this report. The Current Population Survey is a longitudinal data source from the U.S. Census. The Census has asked some questions for decades but also frequently modifies or adds questions. The latest data available from the U.S. Census Current Population Survey for Voting were from November of 2018, while the latest Volunteering and Civic Engagement Supplement were from 2017. The Granite State Poll only draws from data from the fall of 2019 but was able to make some longitudinal comparisons from data drawn in 2001, since we used select questions from the Social Capital and Community Benchmarks Survey.

Another important data consideration to understand is that for some Census measures from the Current Population Survey there were not enough data to report demographic information such as race and ethnicity or educational levels for individuals with less than a high school education, or for individuals from the Generation Z age group. Data were not reported for categories with an unweighted sample size of less than 100.

Generation Categories

The U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey and NCoC provided subgroup data of the following generations and defined them as follows:

  • Millennials, born 1982-1995
  • Generation X, born 1981-1965
  • Baby Boomers, born 1946-1964
  • Silent and Long Generation, born before 1930-1945

The US Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey and the NCoC provided subgroup data of the following by income:

  • Less than $35,000
  • $35,000-$49,999
  • $50,000-$74,999
  • $75,000 or higher


[1]. Vinnakota, R. (November, 2019). ). From Civics Education to a Civic Learning System: A Landscape Analysis and Case for Collaboration. https://rbw.civic-learning.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/CE_online.pdf.
[2]. What is New Hampshire? (2018). Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire. https://carsey.unh.edu/what-is-new-hampshire.
[3]. Ibid
[4]. Ibid
[5]. Ibid
[6]. U.S. Census Bureau (2019, December 18). American Community Survey 4-year Public Use Microdata Samples. 2014-2018 Poverty Rate in the United States by County. Retrieved October 23, 2020, from https://www.census.gov/library/visualizations/interactive/2014-2018-poverty-rate-by-county.html.
[7]. Ibid
[8]. US Census Bureau. (2020, June 26). American Community Survey 3-year Public Use Microdata Samples. Income and Poverty in the United States: 2018. Retrieved October 23, 2020, from https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2019/demo/p60-266.html.
[9]. “New Hampshire demographics of poor children” (November 19, 2018). National Center for Children in Poverty. http://www.nccp.org/profiles/NH_profile_7.html.
[10]. Spantchak, Y. (November 21, 2019). Income inequality in New Hampshire, explained. New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. https://www.nhcf.org/what-were-up-to/income-inequality-in-new-hampshire-explained/.
[11]. US Census Bureau. (2019). American Community Survey and Community Population Survey 4-year Public Use Microdata Samples. U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: New Hampshire: Bachelor’s degree or higher, percent of persons age 25 years+, 2014-2018. Retrieved October 23, 2020, from https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/NH/EDU685218.
[12]. Morris, K. (May 2020). Racial disparity in America: The worst states for black Americans. Zippia. https://www.zippia.com/advice/racial-disparity-worst-states/?fbclid=IwAR0kTTL5N0weNux45noh0T3sHOT7-K1DBcZvJBZIDZXIQhXHYu5S4TmArsg.
[13]. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in New Hampshire Weekly Summary Report. (May 4, 2020). New Hampshire Division of Public Health Services. https://www.dhhs.nh.gov/dphs/cdcs/covid19/covid-weekly-report-05042020.pdf.
[14]. NH Department of Education (2019) Cost Per Pupil by district, 2018-2019, https://www.education.nh.gov/sites/g/files/ehbemt326/files/inline-documents/cost-pupil-district18-19.pdf.
[15]. “Neighbors” is not defined explicitly in the Current Population Survey. Interpretation is left up to the respondent. Thus, neighbors in an urban context may be in close physical proximity and encountered frequently; neighbors in rural contexts may be some distance away and encountered less often than in urban settings.
[16]. 1978 was the last data point we were able to access on midterm turnout, so it is possible this is the highest rate in voter turnout in years prior to 1978 as well, but we do not have the data to make this claim.
[17]. DiStaso, John. (November 6, 2020). More than 73% of New Hampshire’s Voting Age Population Cast Ballots, Resulting in Record Turnout. WMUR, https://www.wmur.com/article/new-hampshire-sets-election-turnout-record-2020/34599609.
[18]. 2010 Ohio Civic Health Index (November 8, 2010). National Conference on Citizenship. https://www.ncoc.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/2010OhioCHI.pdf.
[19]. In the Current Population Survey Data, the U.S. Census Bureau categorizes individuals who make $75,000 as the higher income bracket, which is defined as a national standard. However in New Hampshire, the median income is $74,057. Thus, some data that is categorized as “higher income” may be more indicative of middle income experiences in New Hampshire. See “Income and Poverty” Quick Facts New Hampshire (July 1, 2019). U.S. Census Bureau. https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/NH.
[20]. Research puts spotlight on the impact of loneliness in the U.S. and potential root causes. (May 2018). Cigna. https://www.cigna.com/newsroom/news-releases/2018/new-cigna-study-reveals-loneliness-at-epidemic-levels-in-america.
[21]. McKinley, S., Azem, Z.S., and Smith, A.E. Granite State Poll Report, Carsey School of Public Policy (October 2019). UNH Survey Center.
[22]. Haidt, Jonathan. (2012). The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided. First Vintage Books.

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