Join | Login



Roxanne Moadel-Attie




Roots of American Democracy in Civic Duty and Political Participation

Roxanne Moadel-Attie, Program Analyst, U.S. Census Bureau

Every 10 years, Americans complete the decennial census as a civic duty; part of a national legacy originating from the U.S. Constitution, beginning in 1790 with the first census conducted by U.S. Marshals on horseback1. As an Area Manager responsible for the 2020 Census field data collection in Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island, New York, I gained a deeper appreciation of civic duty and political participation as essential roots of American democracy. Overseeing a region with the greatest ethnic and linguistic diversity in the U.S., inclusive of peoples from all socioeconomic levels and educational backgrounds, I had the opportunity to witness one of the largest peacetime operations in U.S. history aimed at counting our population and capturing their demographic information.

When asked to complete the census, many residents report privacy concerns or government disapproval. However, few individuals recognize that the completion of this simple, 10-item survey determines both the reallocation of 435 congressional seats via reapportionment as well as the allocation of federal funding at state and community levels. In turn, collective participation in the census may determine if your state gains or loses a congressional seat, impacting legislative votes and national elections for the next 10 years. Further, the information gleaned from the census is used for redistricting, impacting legislative bodies and local communities who deserve able congressional and senatorial representation that constituents seek to advocate issues of importance.

Beyond participating in the census which impacts reapportionment, budget allocation, and redistricting, casting one’s vote in local, state, and national elections is paramount to political engagement and to supporting public officials who represent the needs of their communities, their states, and the nation. Although recent national elections may suggest that voter turnout has declined, voter participation has steadily remained close to an average of 62% across the last 10 elections since 1980, ranging from 59.5% to 67.7%.2 That said, in a time when voter suppression has become institutionalized with newly introduced state legislation3, it is essential to remember that voters’ rights and protections are crucial to the vitality of our democracy.

Although occasions to exercise one’s civic responsibilities and political engagement (e.g., voting in elections and completing census questionnaires) may only arise every few years, some individuals choose to pursue careers in government at a local, state, federal, or international level to actively pursue the changes they aspire to see realized. Even further, issue-centered political activism takes many forms in our democracy, some of which may be exercised through engagement at SPSSI. During my 10 years as a SPSSI member, I have participated in advocacy days in which a group of individuals receive training on legislative advocacy before collectively lobbying a particular issue on Capitol Hill with congressional and senatorial representatives; helped organize Psychology Day at the United Nations as well as parallel events to UN Commissions in conjunction with the Psychology Coalition of NGOs at the UN (PCUN); and wrote policy and UN Commission statements centered on psychological research with recommendations for U.S. or international action on specific issues. Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention the importance of grassroots movements and personal actions such as petitions, marches, protests, public speeches and written communication (e.g., op-eds), and donations to influential organizations (e.g., political action committees) as cornerstones of our American democracy.

1. U.S. Census Bureau. (2023, December 14). History: 1790 Overview. Retrieved from

2. U.S. Census Bureau. (2017, May 10). Voting in America: A Look at the 2016 Presidential Election. Retrieved from

3. Brennan Center for Justice (2023, June 14). Voting Laws Roundup: June 2023. Retrieved from

back to menu