Survey Variable: Work-Based Civic Skills

Respondents who were in work or had worked in the past (n = 1,379) were asked about four skills that they used in their jobs: writing formal emails and letters, participating in decision-making meetings, chairing meetings, and giving presentations. These were the same skills that were asked about in relation to volunteering for political parties, trade unions and professional associations, campaigning organisations, and charities. However, in this case, respondents were not asked whether they ever did each thing but how frequently they did them. As we can see in Figure 1 (above, using weighted data),[1] writing formal emails and letters at work (panel A) is very widespread, though approaching two fifths (37.8%) do so very infrequently (less than once every six months). Amongst those who write formal emails and letters more frequently, the largest group (22.3%) does so daily. The distribution of answers has peaks at each end, which is unlike the distributions for the other skills. For example, participating in decision-making meetings (panel B) has a similar percentage of people who do it very infrequently (40.5%) but the number of people who do it then generally declines as the frequency of using the skill increases. This distribution is clearer in relation to chairing meetings (panel C) and giving presentations (panel D), which two thirds (67.0%) and three fifths (61.2%) of people do very infrequently. For both skills, the number of people declines as the frequency of using it at work increases.

We can also count the number of skills that people exercise at least every six months. As Figure 2 (below, using weighted data) shows, the distribution of number of skills used in bimodal: just over a quarter of people (26.4%) do not use any of the skills frequently whilst an almost identical proportion (26.5%) use all four skills frequently. Slightly than a third of respondents use one (18.0%) or two (17.7%) of the skills, and the smallest category is those who use of three of the skills (11.4%). We are interested in these skills because we they are the kinds of things that can be used when getting involved in political activity. If you write formal letters, participate in decision-making, chair meetings, or give presentations at work then it is easier for you write to an MP, put forward an argument at a campaign meeting, take on a position of responsibility in a political organisation, or stand up and talk about your ideas at a public meeting. Their utility in the civic arena is why, following Verba, Schlozman and Brady, we call them civic skills.

Figure 2. See also Table A2.
Variable namescc_cs_letter_cimv, cc_cs_meetatt_cimv
cc_cs_meetcha_cimv, cc_cs_present_cimv
Number of cases1,379
Number of categories7
Categories to code as missingNone
Cases to code as missingNone
Recoded variable namecc_cs_count_mv
Number of cases1,379
Number of categories5
New and old categoriesCategories 1 (‘Less than monthly’), 2
(‘Once a month’), 3 (‘Once a fortnight’),
4 (‘Once a week’), 5 (‘Twice a week’),
and 6 (‘Daily’) on each of the
original variables were counted
as 1 (i.e. indicating that the
form of civic skill has been
used more than very infrequently),
with category 0 (‘Less frequently’)
counted as zero. As such, 0 on the
new variable indicates that no
forms civic skill are used very
frequently whilst 4 indicates that
all four are used with some frequency.
Details of the original and recoded work-based civic skills variables.

[1] See also Table A1.

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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