Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

September 23, 2010


Host: Ted Simons

Arizona's Poor Civic Health


  • The Arizona Civic Health Index finds that Arizonans are not as well informed as people in other states, voter turnout continues to decline and residents feel a disconnected with their elected leaders. Lattie Coor, of the Center for the Future of Arizona, discusses the report.
Guests:
  • Lattie Coor - Center for the Future of Arizona
Category: Elections

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. A report released today by the center for the future of Arizona and the national conference on citizenship finds that Arizonans are not doing well when it comes to civic duties. The Arizona civic health index finds Arizonans are not as well informed as people in other states, voter turnout continues to decline, and residents feel a disconnect with their elected leaders. Here to talk about the report is Lattie Coor, chairman and CEO of the center for the future Arizona.

Lattie Coor:
Nice to see you again, thanks for having me here.

Ted Simons:
What is the index designed to do?

Lattie Coor:
When we did the Gallup Arizona poll, and released it last fall, a couple things disturbed us. First, Arizona citizens in that poll thought their elected officials were not doing a good job. But only 10% thought they thought their elected officials actually represented their citizen interests. Secondly, even though Arizonans showed in that Gallup poll they loved this place, loyal to it, 12% said they didn't think people where they lived cares about one another. Very strang piece of that. So as we began talking with the national conference on citizenship who had been doing a national civic health index, the notion of civic health became very clear to us, just as we have fiscal health and the health of our education system, that civic health was something we ought to take a look at.

Ted Simons:
Apartments index looks at a lot of facts are. We referred to it in the intro. The disconnect between citizens and politicians. I mean, 10%, 12% -- that's exceedingly low and yet we don't see a lot of change in terms of our elected leaders.

Lattie Coor:
And I don't know how to reconcile that. One suggestion -- not an unworthy one -- is that people are just tuned out F. they don't have higher -- tuned out. If they don't have higher regard for their elected officials or the process and aren't doing something about it and not paying attention to the news, not registering, not voting, they're kind of -- and disconnect is probably the best way to describe it.

Ted Simons:
You mentioned not paying attention to the news. The numbers show we aren't as well informed as folks around the country. What's that about?

Lattie Coor:
It's -- the newspaper reading is about 15% than national ample, television viewing is also about 15% less than the national average. Magazines and even communication by web. The reason we wanted to do this index, get it on the table and get people thinking about this and talking about it, we think it's important enough we do need to try and understand it more fully.

Ted Simons:
If we do understand it more fully and find that out that Arizona is kind of a laid back state. You go to the Sky Harbor airport doesn't move as fast as JFK or other airports. Can you only go so far with some of these ideas or concerns in a place like Arizona?

Lattie Coor:
Hard to say, especially when you see what's happening with our fiscal problems and what's happening to effects on the basic fundamentals of the case and the kind of social network system, it has to have a consequence for citizens that they see. I don't know what the basic answer is. Except to say we think there are things that can be done about it. Letting people know, getting people to start to look at their own civic health and individual communities around the state and see if they can't build a deeper connection. It's not just voting. It's that people don't seem to connect to one another. Aren't as familiar with one another. Aren't as involved in their own immediate communities and I don't think Arizona's that different from the rest of the nation. We think there have got to be reasons how that can be better.

Ted Simons:
It's interesting you bring that up, the part we're not as strongly connected to one another. Why is that important?

Lattie Coor:
Interesting -- the interesting marker. Eating dinner with family and friends on a regular basis. That's kind of a personal thing and yet the national data shows that the more people eat dinner with on another, family and friends, the more active they are in voting. In Arizona, if you take the data, those families that eat dinner regularly with one another, vote at a 80% level. Those that do not, vote at a 29% level. We don't know why, but there is a relationship there we think is worth at least observing.

Ted Simons:
The idea, though, of talking or exchanging, you know, errands or favors with neighbors, mentioned in the report with that. We don't do well with that either. The nature of Arizona, transient. People come and go quickly and when they do come out, they have friends back in Ohio or Illinois and not concerned about the friends out here. How can Arizona get past that.

Lattie Coor:
I think the passage of time. The biggest surprise is how deeply passionate people are about Arizona. So it isn't that they're just here in person, they love the place, they're connected to the place, in that sense, but not connected to other individuals. We may ultimately find out that's the nature of the beast but we think focusing attention on it and thinking about it and talking about it and gets communities to talk about it could give us a more complete answer.

Ted Simons:
I do want to find out your ideas on where we go from here. I noticed in the report that Tucson scored high on the neighbor level and information -- a lot of these things, Tucson does pretty well on.

Lattie Coor:
I think a great coherence in the community and connectedness in the community and that's the part we see in other parts oft state that aren't present. Interestingly, there's greater connection in the Phoenix area than the rural areas. Contrast for the rest of the nation all right. Rural areas are more closely connected and vote more than the urban areas.

Ted Simons:
What do we do with the findings?

Lattie Coor:
We've set forth a plan to invite five communities around the state to work with us and develop their own civic engagement, civic renewal plan, whatever works best for them. Connecting citizens and getting them involved in community affairs and registering and voting, whatever works, over the next year, and see if we can't get a major national foundation that's interested in civic renewal to help fund these five communities to see what they can do to increase civic improvement in their own community. That's what we're going to set out to do and a year from now, let's see what this looks like.


Ted Simons:
We'll have you back. Before then, too. Good to see you, thanks for joining us.

Lattie Coor:
Thank you, Ted.

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