Report: Ohio is middle-of-the-road with civic, community engagement

Originally posted by the Journal-News

Hamilton, OH — Ohioans want to be connected to their neighbors and their larger community, but their efforts are falling short, according to a new study. Civic health Ñ which includes volunteerism, voter participation, and efforts made to improve and grow a community Ñ is one measure of the well-being of a country, state and community. OhioÕs civic health is on pace with the rest of the nation and thatÕs not necessarily good, according to a report released by Miami University Hamilton in September. ÒThereÕs evidence that crime rates are related to the strength of civic bonds, economic development,Ó said Miami University Hamilton political science professor John Forren. ÒSo what these kinds of reports are doing really is trying to get some indicator of how weÕre doing.Ó The National Conference on Citizenship partnered with more than 30 communities and about 100 organizations, including Miami HamiltonÕs Center of Civic Engagement, to produce several reports on civic health. Ohio is reflective of the country, said Sarah Woiteshek Pietzuch, director for the Center of Civic Engagement, and co-author of the Ohio Civic Health Index report with Forren. ÒI think thatÕs really important to take away (of the report) is that weÕre on the line,Ó Woiteshek Pietzuch said. ÒA lot of the data shows itÕs mediocre in terms of our ability to connect with each other and solve basic community issues and problems.Ó According to the report, less than 28 percent of Ohioans and less than 30 percent nationwide in 2011 frequently Ñ at least a few times a week Ñ discuss politics; less than 12 percent in Ohio and less than 13 percent have contacted or visited a public officials; and 7.3 percent of Ohioans and 8 percent of the nation attended a public meeting at least once in a year. But while nationally community ties are somewhat lack luster, Forren said Ohio does Òrelatively wellÓ Ñ with 81.5 percent of Ohioans in 2011 reported communicating regularly with their families and friends over the last year. That is slightly higher than the national average. Similarly, 88.2 percent of Ohioans in 2011 reported eating dinner with family members at least a few times a week. Also, nearly 60 percent of Ohioans have some level of confidence with public institutions, and despite being low by historical standards Forren said ÒthatÕs not a terrible number,Ó nor is it far off the national average of 62 percent. There is also a Òreally high level of confidenceÓ in public schools, he said, Òwhich are historically thought to be the places where people learn to be citizens in a democracy.Ó The report does not specifically call out Butler County, but where it may fall short is in the involvement of the millennial generation, said Quinton Couch, a sophomore at Miami University Hamilton and president of the Student Association of Law and Politics. ÒI donÕt think weÕre nearly as involved as we should be or ought to be as members, and not only members but the future, of this democracy,Ó said Couch, who formed the law and politics organization. ÒAs a whole, I donÕt think we are where we should be and thatÕs why IÕm really trying to push us in the right direction.Ó ~1@BODYURL[id=114jbcurl1190]@

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