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The Utne Social Engagement Index

by Eric Utne

Tags: Activism, Social Engagement,

social activism 

Take our Social IQ quiz to determine how socially engaged, active, and influential you are.

With the help of Jay Ogilvy, PhD, director of research for Stanford Research Institute’s Values and Lifestyles (VALS) program, and Brad Edmondson, the editor of American Demographics magazine, Utne Reader ran a survey in the October/November 1986 issue asking, “Have You Given Up?” We reported the results in an article titled “Boom with a View,” in the May/June 1987 issue.

Twenty-seven years later we ran the survey again, in the July/August 2013 issue, and we reported the results in Utne Reader’s March/April 2014 issue.

Now we’ve designed the Utne Social Engagement Index, and the Social IQ quiz, to help you determine just how socially engaged, active, and influential you are.  Inspired by Daniel Goleman’s quiz for determining what he dubbed the Emotional Intelligence Quotient, the Social IQ quiz easy to take. It’s also highly scientific and statistically rigorous (not). We hope you enjoy it.

And listen, smarty-pants—answer the questions honestly. What do you really do? How engaged are you? How influential are you? You may be a Local Living Treasure. A Community Genius. Or you may need some work.


Which of the following activities did you engage in during the last 12 months?  Please select all that apply. Award yourself up to 20 points for each item.                                                                                                                               
1. Voted in federal, state, or local election. (If you voted in any election in the previous 12 months, award yourself 20 points.)   ______    

2. Wrote to the editor of a newspaper, magazine, or website. (If you wrote 1-3 times, award yourself 10 points. Add one point for each time up to a maximum of 20 points.)   ______                            

3. Wrote something that has been published. (If you wrote one article, poem or short story that was published, award yourself 10 points. If you published a book with a major publisher, give yourself 20 points. If you self-published, and your book was ranked among the top 500 sellers on Amazon, give yourself 20 points.)   ______

4. Personally visited an elected official to express a point of view. (If you visited a local representative 1-3 times, award yourself 10 points. If you traveled to Washington, DC 1-3 times to visit a representative, award yourself another 10 points. If you did either more than once per month, you’re bordering on ineffectual crankiness. You get zero points. If you’re a paid lobbyist, subtract 20 points.)   ______

5. Addressed a public meeting. (If you addressed a public meeting 1-3 times in the last year about an issue of local, regional, national or global concern, award yourself 10 points. Once a month or more, get a soapbox, start a blog, or take a good look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Is anybody listening?” Zero points.)   ______

6. Took an active part in some local civic issue. (If you attended a public meeting, give yourself 10 points. If you organized the meeting, give yourself 20 points.)   ______     

7. Organized or participated in a political protest or demonstration. (If you simply attended the demonstration or protest, give yourself 10 points. If you organized it, give yourself 20 points.)   ______       

8. Actively worked for a political party or candidate. (If you attended a fund-raiser or meet-and-greet, give yourself 10 points. If you door-knocked or volunteered for a phone bank, that’s 20 points. If you yourself ran for public office, give yourself 30 points.)   ______

9. Committed an act of civic disobedience.  (Don’t worry, our lips are sealed. Monkey-wrenching a fracking operation or the Keystone XL pipeline, 20 points. Withholding a percentage of your taxes equivalent to the defense department’s portion of the federal budget, 20 points. Texting while driving, subtract 20 points. Jaywalking, subtract 5 points. Smoking Cuban cigars, plus or minus 10 points, depending on the statement you’re trying to make.)   ______

10. Engaged in fund raising. (Yes, this is a nebulous, confusingly phrased question, but you know what we mean. Did you raise money for a 501c3 without being compensated? Give yourself 20 points.)   ______                        

11. Actively worked as a volunteer, (non-political). (If you benefitted directly from your voluntary efforts, award yourself 10 points. If you volunteered simply for the greater good, or for the joy of it, give yourself 20 points.)   ______                           

Total Points  ______


(210 is the highest score and 100 is average)

• 210 — Local Living Treasure

• 175 — Activist Genius

• 150 — True Community Organizer

• 125 — Local Leader. If you blog it, they will come

• 100 — Average

•   75 — Needs work

•   50 — Hellooo-o

•   25 — Best to try again another time

•     0 — Best to try again another life

RoperASW, the marketing research firm, created a typology of the American population nearly 50 years ago to help identify America’s opinion leaders and cultural change agents, and it’s still in use today. According to Roper researchers Ed Keller and Jon Berry, authors of the book, The Influentials, social engagement is key to influence:

One American in ten tells the other nine how to vote, where to eat, and what to buy. Who are they? The most influential Americans—the ones asked by their neighbors which politicians to support, which movies to see, and where to vacation. They are not necessarily the people you’d expect. They’re not America’s most affluent 10 percent or the best-educated 10 percent. They’re not the “early adopters,” always the first to try everything from Franco-Polynesian fusion cooking to digital cameras. They are, however, the 10 percent of Americans most engaged in their local communities … and they wield a huge amount of influence within those communities. They’re the campaigners for open-space initiatives. They’re church vestrymen and friends of the local public library. They’re the Influentials … and whether or not they are familiar to you, they’re very well known to the researchers at RoperASW.

For decades, these researchers have been on a quest for marketing’s holy grail: that elusive but supremely powerful channel known as word of mouth. What they’ve learned is that even more important than the “word” —what is said—is the “mouth” who says it … Influentials lead the way in social development, from the revival of self-reliance (in managing their own health care, investments, and consumption) to mass skepticism about the marketing claims of everything from breakfast food topoliticians. Although America’s Influentials have always been powerful, they’ve never been more important than now. — from The Influentials, by Ed Keller and Jon Berry

THE RESULTS – How do you compare?
As it happens, Utne readers participate in these activities at rates that far surpass the general U.S. population, making them among the most influential of the Influentials. When asked which of the following activities they engaged in during the previous 12 months, Utne readers reported:

• 86 percent voted in federal, state, or local elections (compared to 58 percent of eligible U.S. voters in the 2012 elections)

• 58 percent actively worked as a volunteer (non-political)

• 45 percent wrote to the editor of a newspaper, magazine, or website

• 42 percent took an active part in some local civic issue

• 36 percent engaged in fund raising

• 31 percent wrote something that has been published

• 27 percent addressed a public meeting

• 24 percent organized or participated in a political protest or demonstration

• 20 percent actively worked for a political party or candidate

• 18 percent personally visited an elected official to express a point of view

• 12 percent committed an act of civic disobedience

Read the rest of the results and Eric’s complete summary of the survey here

Photo by Coffee Party USA, licensed under Creative Commons

Eric Utne is the founder of Utne Reader. He is currently writing a book with Jeri Reilly on aging and activism. He blogs at: boomwithaview.org.