The status of Americans’ social ties and the vigor of their communities have drawn considerable attention in recent years, much of it focused on the degree to which the internet, cell phones, and other information and communication devices are affecting Americans’ social lives.
To assess the state of the play in these social arenas, the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project did a national phone survey of 2,303 adults between November 23 and December 21, 2010. All told, 75% of Americans are active in one kind of group or another. Internet and cell phone owners are more likely than non-technology users to be active in groups. Fully 80% of internet users are active in one kind of group or another, compared with 56% of non-internet users; and 86% of cell owners are active in a group, compared with 62% of non-cell owners.
Furthermore, those who are active in social media are among the most heavily involved group participants: 82% of those who use social networking sites such as Facebook say they are active in groups vs. 77% of the internet users who are not users of such sites; and 85% of Twitter users are active in groups vs. 79% of the online Americans who are not Twitter users.
These figures about group participants come from those who said they belonged to at least one of 27 different kinds of groups that we queried in the survey. If a person said “yes” to being active in at least one group, then she was counted among the 75% of Americans who are active in groups. In fact, the average American adult is active in 3.51 groups of the various types we queried. Some 14% of adults belong to at least 8 types of groups. In addition, the average person spends 6.54 hours per week in group activities.
Church organizations and spiritual groups are by far the most popular groups among Americans: 40% of adults say they are active in such groups. The next most popular groups are those related to sports and recreation leagues (in which 24% of adults are active), consumer groups such as the Automobile Association of America (AAA) or coupon-sharing groups (24%), charitable or volunteer organizations (22%), and professional or trade associations of people in similar occupations (20%). Here is the full picture of group participation that was captured in this survey:
- 40% of adults say they are active in church groups or other religious or spiritual organizations
- 24% are active in sports or recreation leagues for themselves or for their children
- 24% are active in consumer groups such as AAA or coupon-sharing groups
- 22% are active in charitable or volunteer organizations such as Habitat for Humanity or the Humane Society
- 20% are active in professional or trade associations for people in their occupations
- 19% are active in community groups or neighborhood associations
- 18% are active in support groups for people with a particular illness or personal situation
- 17% are active in hobby groups or clubs
- 15% are active in national or local organizations for older adults such as the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)
- 15% are active in political parties or organizations
- 14% are active in alumni associations
- 13% are active in parent groups or organizations such as the PTA or local parent support groups
- 11% are active in literary, discussion, or study groups such as book clubs
- 10% are active in performance or arts groups, such as a choir, dance group, or craft guild
- 9% are active in fan groups for a particular sports team or athlete
- 9% are active in youth groups such as the Scouts, YMCA, or 4-H club
- 8% are active in labor unions
- 8% are active in social or fraternal clubs, sororities or fraternities
- 7% are active in environmental groups
- 7% are active in sports fantasy leagues
- 7% are active in veterans organizations such as the American Legion or VFW
- 6% are active in gaming communities
- 6% are active in fan groups for a particular TV show, movie, celebrity, or musical performer
- 5% are active in ethnic or cultural groups
- 5% are active in travel clubs
- 4% are active in farm organizations
- 3% are active in fan groups for a particular brand, company, or product
- 3% say they are active in another kind of group that was not mentioned in the Pew Internet list