Survey Variable: Organisation Civic Skills

Drawing on Verba, Schlozman and Brady’s (1995) seminal Civic Voluntarism Model, the survey asked people whether they had done any activities involving particular skills for the organisations that they supported. This was to see whether (and how many) people utilise and sustain civic skills when getting involved with the organisations that they support. Specifically, they were asked whether they had written a formal letter or email for the organisation, attended a decision-making meeting, planned or chaired a meeting, or given a presentation. The questions were asked to all respondents who indicated that they had supported each type of organisation in any way but the variables used here include all respondents. The people who indicated that they didn’t support that type of organisation in any way are coded as not having undertaken any skills-based activities for them. As such, Figure 1 (above, using weighted data) shows that for all four types of organisation the overwhelming majority of people have undertaken none of the specific skills-based activities that were asked about.[1] Charities (panel D) are the type of organisation for which people are most inclined to undertake such activities but, even so, more than five in six (85.3%) have not done so. For the other types of organisation (political parties, panel A; trade unions or professional associations, panel B; campaigning organisations, panel C), more than nine in ten have not done any of the activities. It should be noted that only the ‘None’ category is mutually exclusive with the others, since respondents could indicate that they had done multiple activities, which is why the columns do not total 100%.

Again, the data can be recoded to show the count of skills-based activities that respondents undertake for each type of organisation, as has been done in Figure 2 (below, again using weighted data).[2] The columns representing zero activities are exactly the same as those in Figure 1 but Figure 2 additionally shows that most people who undertake any activities only undertake one of them. In all cases, the percentage who undertake one activity is at least twice the size of the total who undertake two, three, and four activities. For charities (panel D) almost one in ten (9.9%) respondents undertake one activity, whilst the figure is close to half that (or less) for the other types of organisation. Together with the figures relating to organisational involvement, this shows that charities are the most successful organisations at both gaining initial support (through donation, volunteering, membership, and taking on unpaid positions) and translating that support into specific skills-based activities.

The success of charities may be for at least two reasons. First, there are more charities in the UK, covering many more causes, than there are political parties, trade unions or professional organisations, and campaign organisations (though the boundaries between these categories are far from solid). Second, charities are the least explicitly political of the four types of organisation asked about, meaning that there is less of a sense that one is ‘doing politics’ (and all the baggage that comes with that) when one supports such an organisation. It is also worth stressing, again in conjunction with the figures relating to overall organisational involvement, that all four types of organisation rely heavily on a small minority of people to undertake the most demanding roles and activities involved in their running. This sub-set of highly committed supporters probably keeps many of these organisations running.

Variable namespp_cs_pp_1b, pp_cs_pp_2b,
pp_cs_pp_3b, pp_cs_pp_4b,
pp_cs_pp_5b, pp_cs_tupa_1b,
pp_cs_tupa_2b, pp_cs_tupa_3b,
pp_cs_tupa_4b, pp_cs_tupa_5b,
pp_cs_co_1b, pp_cs_co_2b,
pp_cs_co_3b, pp_cs_co_4b,
pp_cs_co_5b, pp_cs_char_1b,
pp_cs_char_2b, pp_cs_char_3b,
pp_cs_char_4b, pp_cs_char_5b
Number of cases1,405
Number of categories2
Categories to code as missingNone
Cases to code as missingNone
Recoded variable namespp_cs_pp_count, pp_cs_tupa_count,
pp_cs_co_count, pp_cs_char_count
Number of cases1,405
Number of categories5
New and old categoriesCategory 1 (‘Yes’) on each of the
original variables was counted
as 1 (i.e. that type of activity
is undertaken), with category 0
(‘No’) counted as zero. As such, 0
on the new variables indicate
no skills-based activity with
for type of organisation whilst 4
indicates that all 4 types of
activity that were asked about
are done.
Details of the original and recoded organisation civic skills variables.

[1] The weighted and unweighted numbers behind Figure 1 can be found in Table 1A.

[2] The weighted and unweighted numbers behind Figure 1 can be found in Table 2A.

Published by joegreenwoodhau

Joe Greenwood-Hau is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Government & Public Policy at the University of Strathclyde, where he works on the Capital, Privilege and Political Participation in Britain and Beyond project.

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