Volunteering and Willingness to Serve

Marc Musick, Sarah Dury, Roger Rose

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingMeeting abstract (Book)


The cornerstone of the American judicial system is the jury. Although jury service across many jurisdictions is compulsory in statue, in practice it is actually a voluntary endeavor. In many areas, for citizens to serve they must first be chosen, and to be chosen they must appear on rolls that would open the opportunity to serve. Once summoned for service, citizens can simply opt not to appear, and in many areas, ignoring such a request carries few consequences. Even after appearing for jury selection, many will try to find ways to avoid being selected out of a desire to not serve but also not be punished for not appearing for selection.
Equally important is the idea that jurors take their service seriously. Too often unwilling jurors will be placed on juries and will simply go through the motions of the trial. Other jurors may ignore the proceedings altogether and stand silent during deliberations. For a judicial system that depends on the fairness, impartiality and thoughtfulness of a jury, it is not in the best interests of our society to enlist these unmotivated jurors.
The solution to both of these issues is to create a citizenry who are both willing and able to serve effectively in the juror role. The purpose of this study is to examine the willingness of adults to serve as jurors and how that willingness is predicted across multiple factors.
Primary among the potential causes examined in this paper is volunteering, an activity engaged in across the US by adults from many different backgrounds. The paper argues that volunteering, as a form of civic engagement, increases attachment to civic engagement and thus makes people more willing to serve. Volunteering also provides individuals insight into governmental and non-profit agencies that may enhance attitudes towards those organizations. In sum, it should be the case that people who volunteer are more likely to believe in civic institutions, and thus be more willing to serve on juries.
Data for the study come from the Survey of Texas Adults (SoTA) conducted from November, 2003 to January, 2004. Potential respondents were community-dwelling adults residing in Texas and aged 18 and over. The data collection process yielded 1,504 completed telephone interviews (Household-level cooperation rate: 37%; Respondent-level cooperation rate: 89% [The American Association for Public Opinion Research 2004]). Data were weighted on known population characteristics to match the sample to the population from which it was drawn.
Initial findings indicate that volunteering is a positive predictor of willingness to serve in two ways. First, adults who volunteer for certain types of groups engaged in political advocacy are more wiling to serve. Second, those who volunteer for a broader range of organizations in general are also more likely to serve.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication2012
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jun 2012


  • Willingness to serve
  • Volunteering
  • Texas

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