What is The Scouting Edge? Here are findings from the latest research

It’s called The Scouting Edge.

Scouts and Scouting alumni are more likely to engage in positive behaviors, more likely to act in ways that are considered ethical and moral, and generally express a greater willingness to fight for their country, according to a study conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Scouting America.

The Scouting Edge: A Study of Ethics & Character in America is the latest in a string of recent reports that indicates that Scouting is still good for young people.

In fact, you could say that the study shows that those who have been involved in Scouting as youth or adults have a “Scouting edge.”

“People who are Scouts as well as those who have never been Scouts believe that Scouts and Scouting alumni are more likely than their counterparts to act in ways that are described as ethical and moral,” according to the report. “They believe that people with an affiliation to Scouting realize benefits beyond those who have never been in Scouting.”

Click here to read the report in its entirety, and read on for some highlights.

How was The Scouting Edge study conducted?

The Scouting Edge covers the findings of two parallel studies: one among youth ages 10-17 and adults ages 18 and over who live in the United States, and the other among youth ages 10-17 and adults ages 18 and over randomly sourced from the Scouting America’s membership and alumni databases.

The purpose of these studies was to examine ethics and character in America, with a specific focus on Scouts and alumni. ​The findings shed light on various demographic factors and attitudes among the participants, but, more importantly, suggest that Scouting experiences have a positive impact on character development and civic engagement. ​

According to the report:

  • Americans report a wide satisfaction gap between their personal lives and the state of the country and world. In spite of this, Americans express general pride in living in the United States.
  • There is strong agreement that civic duties such as voting and fighting for our country are important. Those who are able to do these things, should.
  • Those surveyed believe that parents play a critical role in instilling values in their children, leading to a strong consensus that older people should be respected.
  • Reverence continues to be relevant to Americans, as more than 7 in 10 claim a primary religion, although fewer report attending religious services regularly. A strong majority of Americans report a belief in God or a higher power.
  • Selflessness and kindness toward others are celebrated and viewed as important components of being a good citizen.

So, what is The Scouting Edge?

How does Scouting provide an edge?

The Scouting Edge reveals that Scouting alumni report teaching their children about values and ethics at an earlier age than their peers, and Scouts report learning about values and ethics from their parents at an earlier age than their peers.

Furthermore, alumni and Scouts express, in higher proportions than their counterparts, that voting in every election, volunteering time in the community, participating in youth-related organizations and taking an active part in charitable organizations are somewhat to extremely important traits in being a good citizen.

Scouts and Scouting alumni are more likely than their counterparts to identify negative behaviors as being “mostly” or “absolutely” wrong, including tossing out trash while driving, not declaring income to the IRS, exaggerating education or experience on a resume, or smoking cigarettes or vaping.

And there is a strong link between Scouting and religion, as alumni and Scouts are more likely than their counterparts to indicate a primary religion, and alumni report attending religious services more frequently.

The cover of The Scouting Edge report

What’s the biggest takeaway from the study?

In my opinion, it’s this paragraph right here.

Scouts and non-Scouts, alumni and non-alumni, agree that Scouting improves our country across a variety of vectors – in particular, they recognize the “somewhat” or “extremely” positive effects Scouting has on one’s leadership abilities and the competency to help others accomplish their goals.

It’s important to note that although Scouting America sponsored the study, it was conducted by the professionals at The Harris Poll, a market research and analytics company that has been tracking the sentiment, behaviors and motivations of Americans since 1963.

The report provides demographic breakdowns of the participants based on age, gender, race, marital status, employment status, education level, household income and geographic region that offer insights into the diverse perspectives and experiences of the participants.

Like the Tufts study conducted in 2015, The Scouting Edge used science to gather its results. The sampling precision is measured by a Bayesian credible interval, which provides a measure of accuracy with a 95% confidence level.

You can take a deep dive into the data yourself by clicking here.


About Aaron Derr 466 Articles
Aaron Derr is the senior editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines, and also a former Cubmaster and Scouts BSA volunteer.