Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
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.
Hannagan, Rebecca Jean, "The Decline of Trust and Civic Engagement Since Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America" (2003). Student Work. 2225.
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