November 3, 2016

Civic Engagement Strongly Tied to Local News Habits

Appendix C: Terminology

How we measured civic engagement and local news habits

We examined five different aspects of civic engagement.

Attachment to local community: Those who say they feel “highly attached” to their local communities are compared to those who say they feel somewhat or not attached. These groups are referred to throughout the report as “the highly attached,” “the somewhat attached” and “the unattached”

Voting in local elections: Those registered voters who always vote in local elections are compared to those who vote less often, not at all or are not registered to vote.

Local group and political activity: The civically active – those who participate in three or more of 13 different civic groups and political activities asked about in the survey – are compared to those who are somewhat active (participating in one or two activities) or those who are not active (participating in none). These groups are referred to throughout the report as “the highly active,” “the somewhat active” and “the inactive”

Rating of local community: Those who rate their local communities as excellent places to live are compared to those who rate their communities as good or fair/poor. These groups are referred to throughout the report as “high raters,” “moderate raters” and “poor raters.”

Political diversity: Those who see most people in their communities as having different political views are compared to those who see most as having similar political views.

For each of these aspects, the local news habits of the highly engaged – the highly attached, regular local voters, etc. – are compared with the habits of those who are less engaged, focusing on those with strong habits in three broad areas:

Those with high local news interest closely follow news about their local communities, neighborhoods and/or multiple locally relevant news topics such as crime, business or government.

Those with high local news intake get community news multiple times a week or more from a variety of source types, such as local TV, local newspapers, word of mouth and local radio.

Those with very positive local news attitudes see local news organizations in a good light: they think the local news media are in touch with their communities, do a good job keeping them informed and produce trustworthy information.