Infant mortality, obesity, opioid abuse. You name the health issue and Arkansas needs improvement. Now add civic health.
Just in time for the election comes the results of research by Hendrix College student Cordell Campbell about the level of civic engagement in Arkansas. From his executive summary:
The civic health of the state of Arkansas needs improvement. The state performs poorly in several critical indicators of civic health. On the bright side, family interaction in Arkansas is very healthy, with a majority of Arkansans spending quality time with their families frequently. However, neighbor interaction—a key source of social capital— is dwindling. The data show Arkansans could certainly spend more time getting to know, and helping out, the people nearest them. While Arkansans value their communities, group participation and volunteer rates in the Natural State are among the lowest in the nation. Arkansas has consistently ranked below the United States average in both of these indicators, usually landing in the bottom five of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Unfortunately, political involvement is also lacking in Arkansas. in Arkansas.
While voter turnout and registration in Arkansas has bested the United States averages multiple times over the past 40 years, a recent and precipitous decline in both of these metrics is cause for concern.
Furthermore, voting in local elections and attending public meetings are no longer activities pursued by a large portion of Arkansans. Arkansans also rarely: share their opinions on the Internet; boycott or protest companies based on corporate beliefs and values; or discuss politics with family and friends. The key for improved civic health in Arkansas is turning the dedication that Arkansans show towards those closest to them and shifting it toward civic action with those whom they do not know personally. This report aims to understand where we are in terms of Arkansas’s civic health so we can assertively take action to improve those measures in the years ahead.
In short, a cynic might say: We get the government we deserve. The recent results of the Arkansas Poll, showing the people of the state far more moderate than the majority Republican legislature would have you believe, is another illustration. Vote suppression through a variety of legal means is a contributing factor, too.