Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. Loree Bykerk


Since 1776 when the United States broke away from British colonial rule, Americans have considered themselves to be a profoundly free and equal people. When Alexis de Tocqueville toured the young nation in the 1830's he argued that a profusion of voluntary associations, egalitarian values, and a substantial and vibrant religious presence combined to make this fledgling country and unusually civic and participatory democracy. Despite our beginnings as a nation of joiners, Americans' engagement in political activity has fallen steadily. Voter turnout has been declining since the 1960's and polling data reflects a trend of distrust in government. As a result, political elites began to consider whether such trends would have long-term effects on the health of the nation. Following the events of September 11, 2001, polls reflect a revival of trust in government. Similarly, a revival in civic engagement seems to have resulted from 9-11. Could such change be a revival of the democratic citizenship Alexis de Tocqueville observed and that subsequently inspired his Democracy in America? This thesis will consider whether declines actually constitute a "crisis," consider the possible causes of decline, and analyze our present day milieu using Tocqueville's understanding of democratic citizenship to determine whether a revival of trust and civic engagement is essential to the preservation of the blessings of self-government.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of Political Science and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Science University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright Rebecca Jean Hannagan August, 2003

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