Civic participation is defined as individual and collective action designed to identify and address issues of public concern. According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, “[c]ivic engagement creates healthier communities by developing the knowledge and skills to improve quality of life. Voting and volunteering are among the many measures of an engaged population. In both cases, people’s actions show they care about the outcomes of their community or their nation, and they want to cultivate positive change.”[i] Research shows that populations with higher levels of civic participation have better health outcomes. One study found that people involved in electoral participation were 22% less likely to report poor/fair health.[ii] In another study about neighborhood environment, if political engagement was low, people had 52% higher odds of reporting poor health.[iii] Civic participation can also directly influence the health of communities through its impact on public policy process, which can result in changes in the social and environmental conditions that affect their health.
Many interrelated factors impact whether individuals register to vote and participate in elections, including educational attainment, gender, income or class, race or ethnicity, family history of voting, age, language spoken, literacy, trust in government, historical denial of the right to vote, access to transportation and childcare, exposure to get-out-the-vote mobilization efforts, awareness of candidate and ballot initiatives, clarity (or lack of clarity) ballot initiative language, and so on.
Voting rates among registered voters are typically 5-15% higher citywide than in the CMTL area. Between 2011 and 2015, the highest voter turn-out was seen during the November 2016 Presidential election. In general, higher voter turn-out is seen during presidential and gubernatorial elections, which happen on even years.
San Francisco Department of Elections, 2011-2015.
[i] Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Civic Engagement. Retrieved here: http://www.cultureofhealth.org/taking-action/making-health-a-shared-value/civic-engagement/.
[ii] Kim D, Kawachi I. 2006. A multilevel analysis of key forms of community- and individual- level social capital as predictors of self-rated health in the United States. Journal of Urban Health 83(5):813-826.
[iii] Cummins S, Stafford M, MacIntyre S, Marmot M, Ellaway A. 2005. Neighborhood environment and its associations with self-rated health: evidence from Scotland and England. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 59:207-213.