Philadelphia, PA – The Bipartisan Policy Center’s (BPC) Commission on Political Reform and USA TODAY released a new national poll yesterday that shows Americans are interested in participating in public service, but are reluctant to run for and serve in public office. The poll, conducted by the bipartisan team of Whit Ayres and Mark Mellman for BPC and USA TODAY, was released as part of the commission’s second National Conversation on American Unity, a town hall meeting. View the poll here.
Today’s national town meeting, which took place at Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center, focused on the role of public and community service as part of a vital American democratic system. Click here to watch the video.
“Americans support multiple ways to serve their communities, and they value it highly. But they are increasingly skeptical of the value of some types of governmental service, given the hyper-partisanship that has coarsened the tenor of politics and prevented government from being able to achieve results. We must change that environment to restore government’s capacity to solve problems,” said former U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe, a commission co-chair and BPC senior fellow.
Key findings in the poll included:
- Americans think community involvement is a better way to make major positive changes than through government, by a 60 to 28 percent margin, a margin consistent by age, party, and other demographic groups.
- While most Americans believe community service rather than government service is the preferred way to serve, 14 percent of American adults indicate that they have seriously considered running for public office.
- Roughly two-thirds of Americans support providing a stipend or education benefits in exchange for public service and/or providing incentives to professions and businesses to allow them or employees to take service sabbaticals.
- 57 percent of Americans favor requiring every American between the ages of 18 and 25 to serve one year in public or community service in exchange for educational benefits and other support. However, the poll finds that 18-29 year olds are opposed to mandatory service by a margin of 50 to 48 percent.
“We need to find a way to promote greater opportunities to serve and create greater interest in government service if we are to maintain a healthy democracy,” said former Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, a commission co-chair and BPC senior fellow.
Today’s town hall was moderated by Susan Page of USA TODAY and included members of BPC’s Commission on Political Reform.
Throughout the next year, the commission will also host forums in other cities across the country, including in Columbus, Ohio and Boston. In 2014, the commission will present recommendations to the American people in three areas: reforming the electoral system, improving congressional procedures and promoting public service.