Texas ranks among lowest in the U.S. political and civic participation, new study finds

The results of the 218 Texas Civic Health were revealed at a Leadership Austin Engage Breakfast at the Central Library on Feb. 14.n

The results of the 218 Texas Civic Health were revealed at a Leadership Austin Engage Breakfast at the Central Library on Feb. 14.n

In the 2016 presidential election, Texas residents ranked 47th in voter turnout and 44th in voter registration among all 50 U.S. States and Washington D.C., according to a study released Feb. 14 from the The University of Texas at Austin’s Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life and its non-partisan research partners.

Researchers considered the findings only a slight improvement from the previous version of the study known as the “Texas Civic Health Index” conducted in 2013, when Texas was ranked last in voter turnout for the 2010 primary election and the results were deemed “troubling.”

See key findings from the 2018 Texas Civic Health Index.


“Political participation remains extremely low”
The report found Texas lagged behind in voter registration rates and voting among residents ages 18-24.

Only 32% of Texans ages 18 to 24 voted in the 2016 election. This is 11 percentage points less than the national average of 43% for the same age group, the report stated.

Older Texans voted at a much higher rate, although still below the national average in every age group, according to the report.







“A dislike for the candidates and the issues is the reason Texans did not vote in 2016”
In 2016, the top reason that Texans listed for not voting was a “dislike for the candidates and issues,” compared to 2012 when the same reason was ranked third.





“Texans do not regularly talk about politics”
Texas ranked 50th in frequency of discussing politics when compared to 50 states plus Washington D.C. 23% of Texans reported frequently discussing politics compared to the U.S. average of 27% and the top ranked average of 48% of Washington D.C. residents.

Education and income level are two primary factors indicating how often people will discuss politics, according to the report.





“Donating and volunteering is not a priority for many Texans”
Another measure of civic “health” measured in the report is donating to and supporting charitable organizations. Texans ranked in the bottom quarter of states with 46% donating at least $25 to a charitable organization annually and 23% volunteering in their community in the past year.





“Texans make relatively good neighbors”
A highlight for Texans in the report was their willingness to help neighbors, measured under the “social connectedness” category of civic life listed in the report.

Texans ranked slightly above the national average and 24th among the states and the District of Columbia in doing favors for their neighbors, with 13% reporting they do so frequently.





What’s next
Researchers identified discrepancies in civic engagement across socioeconomic levels.

“The data presented above show those who are younger, those with lower levels of
education, and those earning less income are less civically engaged,” the report stated.

The report listed several recommendations that could increase civic engagement among all Texans from reevaluating civics education, developing local leadership and more.

Review the full report here.


By Emma Whalen
Emma is Community Impact Newspaper's Houston City Hall reporter. Previously, she covered public health, education and features for several Austin-area publications. A Boston native, she is a former student athlete and alumna of The University of Texas at Austin.


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