FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS REGARDING BENCHMARK SURVEY:

Community quotient -- Along every dimension of social capital (such as social trust, faith-based participation, etc.) a community quotient (CQ) score shows a community's performance on this dimension relative to what was predicted given its urbanicity, ethnicity, levels of education and age distribution. A score above 100 indicates that a community shows more of this community connectedness than its demographics would predict; conversely, a score below 100 indicates that a community shows less of this type of social capital than its demographics would suggest. Roughly 68% of all communities would fall in the 85-115 range, and almost 95% of all communities would fall in the 70-130 range.

What is social capital?
Social capital ("community connectedness") refers to social networks and the norms of reciprocity that arise from them. A growing body of hard-nosed literature over the last several years shows that social capital, and the trust, reciprocity, information, and cooperation associated with it, enables many important individual and social goods. Communities with higher levels of social capital are likely to have higher educational achievement, better performing governmental institutions, faster economic growth, and less crime and violence. And the people living in these communities are likely to be happier, healthier, and to have a longer life expectancy.

What is the role of community foundations? Community foundations believe that the levels of social capital in their communities are of critical importance to the overall health of the community. Community foundations are social capital builders, committed to working with all groups in their communities to deploy experimental solutions to build their communities. The survey was designed in response to their desire to measure the overall success of communities in building social capital.

Mechanics of survey: Surveys were conducted by Taylor Nelson Sofres Intersearch Corporation by phone between July 2000 and November 2000. The survey has been developed by the Saguaro Seminar at the John F. Kennedy School of Government with the involvement of a Scientific Advisory Group consisting of leading experts around the country on social capital measurement.

The national sample consisted of 3000 respondents, including a two-times oversample of Hispanics and African-Americans. In addition, community samples, with 26,200 collective respondents, were conducted in 40 communities; the local sponsor of the community samples determined the sampling geography. Each community sample consisted of at least 500 interviews.

What is significant about national findings?
For a discussion of the most significant findings from the national data and from the communities looked at as a whole, see the discussion at: https://www.hks.harvard.edu/saguaro/communitysurvey/results_matrix.html

What do you expect/hope to get out of the survey?
The survey brings broader national and community attention to the importance of social capital. It provides a tool to help communities identify how much social capital they have currently and thus measure progress going forward. It also helps communities identify particular areas of strength they can build upon or areas of weakness to address (e.g., informal neighborliness, political engagement, volunteering/philanthropy, etc.).

How is this survey different than other polls?
This is the first survey focused on social capital, although a host of research over the past five years indicates that this is a vital community resource. Moreover, it is the first major look at social capital at the local level. It is highly unusual in such surveys that the local sponsors of these polls are community foundations with a commitment to try to build more local social capital. This survey is the largest scientific investigation of civic engagement in America.

How will it be used?

At the national level: since this will be the largest dataset on social capital, it will be a very useful resource for academics in the future that want to couple this data with other datasets on issues of public health, crime, economic development, education, etc. We also hope it lays the foundation for more regular measurement of social capital at the local level.
At the community level: this tool will help communities identify what their levels of social capital are compared to the national and regional averages, and measure progress going forward. As mentioned earlier, it will help communities identify concretely particular areas of strength to build on or areas of weakness to address.

  • it will enable communities to emulate others who are strong in specific areas
  • some community foundations will also use this survey to announce a new grantmaking program to increase social capital, and others will use the spotlight on social capital to convene community conversations on this topic.

What was the origin of the idea?
The Saguaro Seminar at the John F. Kennedy School of Government was responding to community foundations' requests for such a tool.

How were communities selected?
The Saguaro Seminar selected a broadly diverse group of community foundations (and in rare cases other community representatives) from interested applicants.

What sort of questions does the survey asked?
The survey asks about various "dimensions" of social capital. Everything from:
1) levels of informal socializing with others (neighbors, close friends, etc.)
2) to levels of trust of others and trust of government
3) to how diverse people's social networks are (bridging SK)
4) to what types of organizations people are active in
5) to volunteering and philanthropy
6) to work-based social connectedness
7) to levels of family contact
8) to political engagement
9) to use of the internet
10) to religious participation

What if my community is interested in measuring social capital?
The survey instrument is posted at:
https://www.hks.harvard.edu/saguaro/communitysurvey/docs/survey_instrument.pdf

We encourage other communities that want to measure their social capital to find a qualified survey research or public opinion research firm to conduct the survey in your community.

How can I see the results of the survey?
We have described the most important national results at:
https://www.hks.harvard.edu/saguaro/communitysurvey/results.html

However, the weighted marginals for the national sample for all the questions of the survey are also available at https://www.hks.harvard.edu/saguaro/communitysurvey/index.html . If you are interested in the results from a community rather than the national sample, you should contact the local sponsoring organization about obtaining copies of results.

How can I access the survey data?
We have made the Social Capital Benchmark Survey available to all researchers through the Roper Center & Institute for Social Inquiry in Storrs, CT. At the following URL www.ropercenter.uconn.edu/scc_bench.html you can find a registration sheet to fill out to get the data. We have also provided the codebook (explaining the variable names and variable labels), and the survey instrument.*