Employment is one of the primary means by which we engage in community life, but other forms of civic participation include volunteering, attending City Council or Board of Supervisors meetings, and voting. Through these activities, people can develop personally and professionally, stay informed, come together to achieve common goals and support one another (click on the following to learn more about additional connections to health – Social Participation and Communication). In fact, communities that actively engage volunteers have improved resilience and are better prepared to respond and recover from disasters. Altogether, these actions work toward improving conditions in the community that impact the population’s health.
Nonetheless, a significant part of the population may feel disillusioned or unmotivated to participate because they feel excluded and invisible (visit the Respect & Social Inclusion page for more information). For many, even if they want to find more opportunities to engage civically, they do not know how to navigate certain processes and cannot attend meetings or events because of when they are held. Addressing these barriers, especially for the most vulnerable, is important in ensuring the well-being of the entire population.
"Many low income, language minority communities do NOT engage civically - they don't see themselves represented by elected officials, meetings are not accessible (e.g., during the work day) and they do not understand the processes."
Representative from a non-profit organization serving children and families
Available and reliable data on volunteering in Napa County was limited to results from the California Health Interview Survey. For more information on local volunteering efforts, events and opportunities, explore the following pages – Center for Volunteer and Non-profit Leadership (CVNL), their blog and Bay Area Volunteers catalog.
The term “formal volunteering” refers to the process of volunteering (at any scale or for any period of time) on any local board, council or organization that deals with community problems. For the period of 2014-2016, 11.5% of adults in Napa County formally volunteered, compared to 11.3% statewide; this is a decrease from the 2011-2013 period, when an estimated 17.4% of adults in Napa County formally volunteered. The percent of Napa County adults who informally engaged with others about community problems also declined from 20.2% in 2011-2013 to 16.7% in 2014-2016.
Further analysis of results along any demographics (e.g., sex, age, race/ethnicity) could not be completed as the data would become unstable.
Voter turnout reflects both local civic sentiment – the feeling of connection to and power in shaping community life – and the degree to which voters believe people or matters up for election are likely to affect their lives. When voter turnout is high, election results may be relied upon to accurately reflect the preferences and will of the public.
Voter turnout is defined here as the percentage of eligible voters in a district who actually voted. The term “eligible voters” refers to the population of citizen residents aged 18 years or greater who are not in prison or on parole for a felony or have not been declared mentally incompetent. As shown, voter turnout rates among Napa County citizens have been consistently higher than statewide rates since at least 2012. About 41% of eligible voters in Napa County participated in the 2018 statewide primaries; this was higher than the participation rate for the 2014 statewide primary, when 31% of those eligible voted. Higher voter turnout in 2018 primary elections may also reflect implementation of California’s 2016 Voter’s Choice Act, which increased eligible voters’ ability to vote by mail.
Adequate turnout by individuals from all social groups is important for ensuring that the wishes of all people are effectively and equitably expressed at the ballot box. Unfortunately, voter turnout frequently varies among demographic groups, particularly by race/ethnicity and age.
Turnout among communities of color continues to lag – for example, while Latinos comprise over a third of the eligible voting population statewide, they only account for 21% of Californians most likely to vote according to a 2018 Public Policy Institute of California survey (click here for more data from their report). Further information on local voting by race/ethnicity was not included due to the unreliability of classification by surname matching.
Adults aged 65 years or older typically vote at rates that far exceed their younger counterparts, a trend that is reflected in the figure below, which shows the proportion of young and older adult voters among all those who voted in Napa County from 2012 to 2016. Information on eligible voter population by age was not readily available and accordingly voter turnout among young and older adults was not included. Interestingly, national data indicate that voter turnout rates have been decreasing in recent years among all groups except young adults, whose voting rates are the only ones increasing; this trend has also held among the percent of young adult voters in Napa since 2014.
Batista, L. C., & Cruz-Ledón, A. M. (2013). The relationship between civic engagement and health among older adults. Florida International University.
RAND Corporation. (2011). Building Community Resilience to Disasters: A Roadmap to Guide Local Planning. Retrieved February 8, 2019 from https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB9574/index1.html
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (2019). Civic Engagement. Retrieved February 8, 2019 from https://www.rwjf.org/en/cultureofhealth/taking-action/making-health-a-shared-value/civic-engagement.html
Public Policty Institute of California. (2018). Race and Voting in California. Retrieved February 5, 2019 from https://www.ppic.org/publication/race-and-voting-in-california/
United States Census Bureau. (2017). Current Population Survey, 1980-2016 Voting and Registration Supplements. Retrieved October 5, 2018 from https://www.census.gov/library/visualizations/2017/comm/voting-rates-age.html