PHOENIX – More Arizonans say they are participating in civic activities like interacting with neighbors and contacting public officials, according to a report released at a conference Friday by a nonpartisan research organization.
Lattie F. Coor, founding chairman and CEO of the Center for the Future of Arizona, said the troubled economy is likely a major factor in that increase.
“I think the hard times have caused people to turn to their neighbors, to work with one another, to pay more attention,” he said.
The center released its 2011 Arizona Civic Health Index on Friday in partnership with the National Conference on Citizenship, which produces a national index. The goal: measuring progress of The Arizona We Want, an initiative developed after a 2009 Gallup Arizona Poll showed that the state’s residents have little connection to one another and to their government.
“I think [the index] provides a framework for action that every individual can relate to,” said Coor, who was Arizona State University’s president from 1990 to 2002.
The report assesses how Arizonans measure up to the national averages in political activity, connectedness with family and community and participation in groups and volunteer work. Coor said Arizonans improved in 11 of the 13 indicators, as measured by the Census Current Population Survey and other public sources.
For example, the state jumped from 48th to ninth in doing favors for neighbors and 33rd to 16th in talking with friends online.
Voter turnout surged in 2010 compared to 2006, the previous midterm election, boosting Arizona’s ranking from 33rd to 18th in the nation. Meanwhile, Arizona jumped from 48th to 27th in the nation in its rate of voter registration. That’s likely because of contentious political atmosphere surrounding the budget and immigration, the report said.
Coor said the increase in such activities is a sign that residents are more likely to take part in shaping how their state functions.
“Democracies only flourish when people of all walks of life … are seriously engaged in them,” he said.
David Daugherty, director of research at the ASU’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy, said the report is a useful tool in keeping track of Arizona’s progress, and the state will benefit from people who are connected.
“I think the more people get involved in civic activities, the more they become engaged with one another, the better governance you get for the state,” he said.
Coor said his organization was surprised to see such increases in just a year.
“It is an encouraging development on which I think we can build more systematically over the next few years,” Coor said.