New report spotlights challenges and opportunities for improving Indiana's civic health
Last month, the Indiana Bar Foundation and its partners, which include the Indiana University Center on Representative Government, IUPUI, IU Northwest and the Paul H. O'Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IUPUI, unveiled the 2021 Indiana Civic Health Index.
The report, which has been published biennially since 2011, offers an analysis of Hoosiers' civic engagement, with a particular focus on voting and voter registration, social and community connectedness, and civic awareness and action. It also includes recommendations for improving Indiana's civic health.
The 2021 report provides a comprehensive examination of Indiana's trends in civic engagement over the past decade, identifying areas -- including community volunteering, group participation and philanthropic giving -- where the state has seen significant improvement. It also spotlights Indiana's considerable success in pursuing and building upon past report recommendations. For example, recommendations from the 2019 report led to House Enrolled Act 1384, which Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb signed into law last April. The legislation establishes new standards for civic education, creates a 15-member Indiana Civic Education Commission to determine and oversee curriculum, and requires Indiana middle schoolers to take a semester-long civics course.
This year's report also indicates key civic health measures where Indiana continues to lag behind other states. While Indiana experienced a record turnout in the 2020 general election, the state's voter turnout ranking fell in the last five years, placing Indiana among the bottom five states in the nation. In addition, Indiana continues to rank in the bottom 10 of all states in midterm election voting.
“Increasing the time spent teaching civic education in our schools is the most effective means to turning the tide on our state’s civic engagement numbers,” said Valerie Peña, executive director of the IU Center on Representative Government. “The Civic Health Index is the bellwether indicating not only where we’ve seen civic progress in the state, but also pointing to glaring areas where a great deal of attention is still needed. It also underscores the need for units like ours to continue providing educators with innovative civic-centric learning tools that spark an interest in civic participation in and outside of the classroom.”