Lone Star State Ranks Last in Voter Participation
Texas is used to being out in front of the rest of the country on most major economic and social issues, but a new report has the Lone Star State lagging badly when it comes to civic involvement. The report, entitled the "Texas Civic Health Index," used 2010 Census data to gauge the level of political and community engagement by Texas citizens. "We found that Texas has very low levels of political participation and civic involvement compared to other states," says Regina Lawrence, Director of the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life at UT-Austin, which conducted the study. "Perhaps the most stunning statistic is that in 2010...only about one-third of eligible Texans voted," she tells KTRH. Indeed, only 36% of Texas residents cast ballots, ranking dead last in the nation, even behind the District of Columbia.
There appear to be many factors behind the low voter turnout rate in Texas. One of them is the state's rapidly growing Hispanic population, according to Lawrence. "Hispanic Texans are significantly less likely to participate politically," she says. Another major factor is access to higher education. "In Texas, we have 20% of our citizens who have not earned a high school diploma and another 26% that have only that," says Lawrence. She points out that research shows those who attend college are much more likely to be civically active.
Perhaps the biggest factor of all in Texas' low voter participation level is the lack of competitive political races, since Republicans have dominated the state for years. "Voters have less incentive to stay informed or even care about the outcome of the election when a lot of times in Texas, the electoral outcomes can be a foregone conclusion," says Lawrence. In addition to voter participation, the study also ranked Texas low in other civic categories, like citizen interaction with public officials (49th) and percentage of those who donate to charity (43rd.)
Read the full "Texas Civic Health Index" here.