New Research about Interested Bystanders – in Charlotte, North Carolina
I’m proud to share that a research team from UNC Charlotte and Johnson C. Smith University has just released a study they did in Charlotte, North Carolina that explores “Interested Bystanders” and their views on civic life. This work was a replication of some national research I led in 2013-2014 with Google, and the findings are interesting:
Many people in Charlotte are sitting on the sidelines of civic life. 45% of the Charlotte sample were “Interested Bystanders,” paying attention to local issues but not sharing their opinions or getting locally involved.
Lack of trust is a major barrier to making civic life more meaningful and inclusive. Although the majority of Interested Bystanders described civic engagement as being actively involved and present in one’s community, there was a large distrust of and lack of attachment to local community and government, which deters engagement. This distrust was especially evident among Latino and Black/African American respondents. Interested Bystanders’ lack of attention to local news also likely contributes to their lack of connection to their community.
Personal passions can be an on-ramp to civic engagement. Having an interest or passion about an issue or activity was the most common motivator for engagement followed by the political environment. Concern for those closest to them emerged as the base of those motivations.
Leveraging “civic brokers” could reinvigorate Charlotte civic life. Friends and family are the most influential to Interested Bystanders’ civic participation. Social institutions such as religious organizations, schools, businesses are also viewed as influential. The information and encouragement that Interested Bystanders received online from local institutions and organizations allowed them to take their online actions offline.
This research was supported by the Knight Foundation and Google, and the full report is available at the link above.