Political science professor discusses results of first-of-its-kind civic health index


FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — One local professor discusses The University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, first-of-its-kind civic health index.

“It’s fantastic. And I think people should be engaged,” said Bill Schreckhise, a political science professor at the University of Arkansas.

He says this was his initial reaction to hearing that the University of Arkansas Clinton School released the first-ever Civic Health Index in the state. The index highlights how engaged Arkansans are at the polls, volunteering, and more. As a political science professor, he feels what stands out the most is voter engagement.

“When it comes to political participation in a democracy. People who make decisions on our behalf need to understand what we want,” said Schreckhise.

The report shows that Arkansas’ voter turnout rate is more than 10% lower than the national average, but when it comes to fixing that problem, Schreckhise says it’s something he’s tried to do for years.

“It’s a matter of figuring out how do you target those who just don’t seem to care and how you go about doing that is a tough nut to crack,” said Robert Richards, an assistant professor of communication for the UA Clinton School of Public Service and worked on the report.

“We also are below the national average in terms of volunteering and in terms of cooperating with our neighbors to help the community,” said Richards.

Although there were some low points, Richards points out some positives.

“Things like our very strong ties to people who are close to us, our small-town values that are widely shared around the state,” said Richards.

The report states Arkansas ranked higher in donations than other states. He says the report is a valuable tool in finding where the state falls short and improving those areas.

“We would know the weak areas that we could devote attention to and try to improve public involvement in public matters,” said Richards.

“Any attempt to get more people out into their communities, to get them into the voting booths on Election Day, getting them to contact their members of the legislature and Congress, that’s always a good thing,” said Schreckhise.

You can find more information on how to get involved with the project here.

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