Everything is bigger in Texas — except voter turnout.
In conjunction with the National Conference on Citizenship, UT’s Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life released the Texas Civic Health Index that ranked Texas amongst the lowest states in civic engagement on Tuesday. According to the the institute, Texas has a voter turnout of 36 percent — the worst in the country.
Annette Strauss Director and journalism professor Regina Lawrence said the goal of the study is to make Texas residents aware of where they stand in volunteering, contacting their representatives and voting.
“The goal was to provide the first comprehensive report measuring civic engagement using current US Census data,” Lawrence said.
Citizenship, income, education, age, race and ethnicity all have an effect on each resident’s level of civic engagement, the report said. Residents with higher education usually fair better in each category but education senior Rina Patel said she believes the low numbers in Texas stem from a disconnect between the public and elected officials.
“There’s an interest on topics but a disagreement between students' views,” Patel said.
The study records only nine percent of Texas contacting elected officials compared to twelve percent in the United States average. The study also ranked Texas as the 42nd state for volunteering.
Economic and advertising senior Timothy Tran said learning how to be engaged in the community should be taught in schools.
“The government or the independent school districts do not do enough to prepare kids to graduate and understand how to be involved, rather than the linear pattern of just going to school,” Tran said.
Lawrence said the institute offers programs such as, ‘Speak Up, Speak Out’, a program that enables school-aged children to identify problems in their communities and learn how to address them.
“The quality of civic engagement has to be improved in K-12 instead of just the emphasis on memorization,” Lawrence said.
Where Texas does rank higher than the United States average is in “social connectedness” for exchanging favors with neighbors.