New Arkansas Policy Program Report Examines Civic Health Among Arkansans

Hendrix College student Cordell Campbell ’19 recently published The Results are In: Gauging Civic Health in the Natural State through the Arkansas Policy Program (APP). He carried out the project under the direction of Dr. Jay Barth as part of the Bill and Connie Bowen Odyssey Professorship of Politics at Hendrix; in collaboration with the Arkansas Community Foundation; and with support from the Arkansas Bar Foundation.

Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau and other sources, Campbell’s report examines several indicators of civic health, including types of social connectivity, community involvement, and political involvement.

“Cordell grappled with a great deal of data to tell a subtle story of Arkansans’ engagement in civic affairs,” said Barth. “While Arkansans are deeply engaged with their families and, on occasion, with their neighbors, the further that they move away from those relations, the more they detach from public affairs.”

The report notes significant changes in recent years — mostly declines in participation — and offers a path for improvement, holding up examples and naming resources communities might use to enhance four needs Campbell identifies: volunteer opportunities and coordination; voter registration and get-out-the-vote initiatives; philanthropic and nonprofit efforts; and civic education.

“Civic engagement — voting, volunteering, charitable giving, and participating in community organizations — is essential to the health of Arkansas’s communities,” said Sarah Kinser, chief program officer for the Arkansas Community Foundation, who worked with Campbell on the project. “As Cordell’s research points out, for our state to make forward progress on critical issues like education, health and family economic stability, Arkansans must work together and make their voices heard.”

“Civic engagement has real implications for the health of democracy in our state,” Barth said. “The key question now: What can we do to ratchet up civic engagement to truly have a state where, in the words of the state’s motto, ‘the people rule’?”

For a free PDF file of this report or to learn more about APP, email, or download the report here.