What Is a Citizen?

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A citizen is a person who has full rights and responsibilities as a member of a nation or political community. Citizenship usually signifies a bond that goes beyond basic kinship ties and unites people of different genetic backgrounds as equal members of a group or society. It also usually entails a commitment to abide by the laws of the country and to participate in its government, although participation may vary from token acts of obedience to active involvement in politics.

In modern society, citizenship is a social status granted to individuals who have acquired membership through either birth or naturalization. This social status is based on a constitutionally protected fundamental right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. A constitutionally defined democratic citizenship includes the right to vote and serve in elected offices, as well as other protections. Citizenship is a central concept in many societies around the world.

While some scholars suggest that a citizen’s fundamental right to life, liberty and the pursuit is essentially independent of any other condition or obligation, others argue that the principle can only work if citizens are held accountable for their actions by their governments and are free from interference from other countries, individuals or organizations. The concept of citizenship has evolved over time and continues to change within each society as a result of changing conditions and shifting ideas about how a democracy should function.

A good citizen is one who contributes to the betterment of the society. He or she obeys the law and pays taxes diligently. A good citizen is always ready to help those in need and respects the lives, rights and property of other citizens. He or she treats people with kindness and empathy and is a good listener. A good citizen keeps track of what is happening in the country as a whole and in his or her local communities and tries to influence the direction of the country through voting.

Some studies have associated good citizenship with civic norms and citizen learning, highlighting the formative nature of this concept. Others have focused on the role of citizenship in broader contexts, such as contemporary global problems. The debate on citizenship has implications for the future of global governance.

According to the survey, most Americans believe that it’s very important to be a good citizen to care about other people and to treat them with respect. Almost all of the respondents also agreed that it’s very important to be willing to help when needed and to obey the law. In addition, more than three-quarters of the respondents said that voting in elections is very important to being a good citizen and nearly seven-in-ten said the same thing about paying taxes.

Other behaviors were viewed as important to being a good citizen by smaller shares of the public. For example, 36% of those surveyed believed that it was very important to display the American flag. The results from the poll also showed that Democrats and Republicans differed on how important some of these traits were to being a good citizen, with sizable partisan differences for some items.