Building Collaborations and Consensus More Challenging in Arizona

Last week I attended a presentation by Dr. Lattie Coor, chairman and CEO of the Center for the Future of Arizona and Arizona State University president emeritus, and learned some meaningful statistics about Arizona residents that communicators will find valuable when engaging with Arizona audiences.

These facts were published recently in a state-level report on Arizona’s civic health prepared by the center, with help from the National Conference on Citizenship, a Congressionally chartered organization that publishes America’s Civic Health Index (1).

While there is a plethora of new communication channels available to educate Arizona residents, communicators can expect building collaborations, consensus and relationships among key stakeholders in Arizona to become even more challenging based on the trends revealed in this report.

“Arizonans have always been resilient and optimistic with a strong sense of place,” said Coor. “What’s missing is the glue that connects us to one another and helps us achieve the Arizona we want.”

Here’s a summary of Arizona’s report. A complete civic health report is available at

1. Arizonans are not as well informed as people in other states.

Approximately 37 percent of Arizonans say they do not follow or discuss the news regularly. The finding is especially acute among people with less education. Only 16 percent of those without college experience read and discuss the news regularly, which research has shown to be a key indicator of voting, volunteering and giving. Of the 13 states developing a state-level report on civic health this year, Arizonans have the lowest rate of news consumption across all forms of media.

2. Voter turnout continues to decline.

Arizona ranks 43rd for voter turnout in the 2008 presidential election (59.8 percent), and 40th in the nation for voter registration (68.9 percent). These results reflect a four percentage point decline in voter turnout from the 2004 election and a two percentage point decline in voter registration. The study also shows that although voter turnout among 18- to 29-year olds is on the rise nationally, that’s not true in Arizona. Only 47 percent of younger Arizonans voted in 2008, compared with 51 percent nationally. Arizona’s voter turnout in primary elections, which decreased from 25.3 percent in 2002 to 22.8 percent in 2008, increased for the 2010 primary to 28.2 percent. This is Arizona’s highest primary turnout since the early 1990s.

3. Arizonans are not as strongly connected to one another as people in other states.

Arizona ranks 45th on an index that measures how frequently people eat dinner with family or members of their household. These activities are not only strongly linked to personal well-being, but also predict participation in civic life. For example, 72 percent of those who eat dinner most nights with family voted in 2008, compared with 29 percent for those who do not. Arizona ranks 48th in the nation for “exchanging favors with neighbors,” another measure of social connectedness.

4. There is an educational divide in citizen participation.

On most measures, education beyond high school is one of the key predictors of voter turnout and other expressions of citizen engagement. Slightly more than 80 percent of all Arizonans with a college degree voted in 2008, 11 percentage points higher than those with some college experience and 32 percentage points higher than those with only a high school diploma.

5. Arizonans feel a growing disconnect with the leaders they elect to represent them.

Levels of confidence in government are declining. The 2009 America’s Civic Health Index found that only six percent of Americans expressed a great deal of confidence in Congress or the executive branch. Similarly, the 2009 Gallup Arizona Poll found that only 10 percent of Arizonans believe that elected officials represent their interests. Restoring trust between leaders and citizens is essential to Arizona’s civic health.

The state’s educational divide and the disconnect among the citizens and their elected officials, as well as their neighbors, are key trends for communicators. We must realize that building collaborations, consensus and relationships may be more protracted, methodical information-driven process in Arizona than other states.

About the Center for the Future of Arizona

The Center for the Future of Arizona helps to guide and inform decisions that impact quality of life and opportunities for Arizonans through public-policy research, collaborative partnerships and initiatives. Based in Phoenix, Ariz., the Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that is privately funded through individual, foundation, corporate and community contributions. For information about the Center, visit

(1) The NCoC 2010 America’s Civic Health Index participants include: Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and the metropolitan communities of Chicago, Miami, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Seattle.

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