The Indiana Civic Health Index seeks to turn data into action for a stronger state.

Authored by Ellen Szarleta, director of the Center for Urban and Regional Excellence, Indiana University Northwest; Bill Moreau, partner with Barnes & Thornburg LLP; and Charles Dunlap, executive director of the Indiana Bar Foundation, the full report is online at

The good news, according to the 2019 report, is that in many community-related activities, such as volunteering, giving and community membership, Hoosiers participate in rates higher than the national average.

The not-so-good news is that voter registration and turnout, past and present, is consistently ranked well below the national average.

However, the Index also shows Indiana’s residents are active participants in their communities and engage at high rates in a variety of volunteer, family, group and nonelectoral activities. Hoosiers rank second in the country in sharing their views on social, political and local issues online and rank eighth in frequently reading, watching or listening to news and information on these issues, a press release stated.

The press release continued, “To continue to promote civic engagement, the Index includes a recommendation to convene a civic education task force. The task force will study methods of instruction, programs and educational outcomes to improve civic education opportunities for all ages and prepare specific policy recommendations to improve civic education in Indiana.

“The second recommendation made by the Index is to increase Indiana’s voting turnout from the bottom 10 to the top 10 of states. A look at the top 10 states shows Indiana would need to improve turnout by 20% to join their ranks. More specifically, it is estimated that a 20% increase would require approximately 500,000 additional voters in 2020. It will require the creation and implementation of the State’s first concerted, statewide campaign to encourage all eligible Hoosiers to register and vote.”

Former Congressman Lee Hamilton, former Indiana Supreme Court Justice Randall Shepard and former Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller wrote a commentary titled, “Why is Indiana’s civic health important?”

The column says engaged citizens are the foundation of a well-functioning democrac and describes engaged citizens this way:

They get involved. They understand the world around them. They care about their communities and work to improve them. In doing so, these citizens practice civility when faced with differences of opinion. When we are informed and recognize our differences–and similarities–we are taking the first step toward a dialogue that is both substantive and factual, while simultaneously bettering our civic health.

We have studied Indiana’s civic health over the past eight years through a partnership with several organizations dedicated to the issue through the Indiana Civic Health Index. The fourth, and latest, edition was released on Veterans Day. This edition of the report seeks to use some of the Index’s findings to shape some concrete steps that we as a state can use to build on our successes and address our challenges.

Some good news ...

The report has several areas of strength as a state that we can celebrate. Positively, in many community-related activities, such as volunteering, giving, group participation and community membership, Hoosiers participate in rates higher than the national average.

Some bad news ...

The index also has several areas that we need to focus on and address in order to improve our overall civic health as a state. Voter registration and turnout, past and present, is consistently ranked well below the national average.

Over the coming months we will be working with a core group of partners from the Civic Health Index to focus on improving civic education opportunities throughout the state and increasing our voter registration and turnout rates. We believe that a concerted effort in these two areas will begin to help move the needle in a positive direction for Hoosiers’ overall civic health. We look forward to building our statewide network of partners in this effort. If you believe, like we do, that our state’s civic health is a crucial component to a strong state and nation, please join us as a member of the Indiana Civic Health Alliance! More information is online here: ana-civic-health-alliance

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