SPECIAL REPORT: Putting Down Roots : The Times Poll : How Rooted Are We? : Nationally, a Higher Level of Involvement


Residents of North County feel as rooted in their communities as do people nationwide, but they are less involved in community activities, the Los Angeles Times Poll has found.

About 8 in 10 persons, locally and nationally, feel "rooted" or settled into their communities, versus feeling uncomfortable with their surroundings.

And about half of the people, both nationwide and in North County, don't plan to move from their residences within the next five years.

These are among the findings of two studies conducted by the Los Angeles Times Poll: one contacting 1,574 residents of North County, and the other 1,671 adults nationwide.

The national poll posed three of the same questions about community that were asked in the North County poll. Both samples have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 points.

Nationally, 63% of adults said they participate in one or more community activities. Among North County residents, 48% said they participate in community activities.

The most common area of participation for both groups is "church-sponsored activities." It was named by 20% of North County's respondents, and by 40% of the respondents nationwide.

The question does not necessarily measure how religious people are since some who are not religious may participate in church-sponsored activities--such as dances or bingo games--and some who regularly attend church services may not participate in church-sponsored activities.

Participation in charity work ranked second in both the national and North County surveys; nationally, 30% do charity work while in North County, 12% do.

Participation in youth sports ranked third both nationally and locally; 21% of the national respondents are involved in youth sports activities, compared to 9% of North County residents.

John Brennan, director of The Times Poll, said that while the differences in the rate of community participation between Americans as a whole and North County residents is measurable, there is no easy explanation.

One possible reason that North County residents participate less in community activities may be because of the area's rapid growth and the arrival of newcomers to the region, Brennan said.

He noted, too, that the level of community participation in North County may not be peculiar to this area, but might be found in other pockets in the nation that have demographics and growth patterns similar to North County's.

Brennan also cautioned that the level of community participation is not a measure of whether people feel settled in their communities.

Even among people who don't participate in community activities, about 7 in 10 still feel rooted to their communities--both within the North County population and nationwide.

"Clearly, 'rootedness' to a community is no longer necessarily defined in terms of participating in traditional community activities," Brennan said.

"What that may mean for the future of communities is something to speculate on. And the fact that people who aren't participating in the traditional community activities still feel rooted means there's something else going on. People are finding other ways to establish their links to the community. And it may be something that we won't be able to define easily."

While nearly equal percentages of North County residents and people nationwide feel rooted, people nationally are somewhat more likely as a group than people in North County to remain in their community, the poll found.

Nationally, 51% of the people say they don't plan to move from their residence within the next five years, and another 22% said they plan to move from their home, but stay in the same community.

In North County, 50% plan to stay in their same house, and another 13% expect to move but remain in the same community.

Roots In US & North County Source: Los Angeles Times Poll

How U.S. & North Community Participation Compares Source: Los Angeles Times Poll

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