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The Journal Gazette

  •  Courtesy Andrew Downs/IPFW Greg Zoeller, former Indiana attorney general, discusses the findings of the 2017 Indiana Civic Health Index on Friday at IPFW.

Friday, November 10, 2017 4:10 pm

Shepard, Zoeller lead Civic Health Index discussion

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

Former Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said Friday at IPFW that he used to call democracy a participatory sport. 

"You don't have a democratic system without participation," Zoeller told students at the Liberal Arts Building.

The 2017 Indiana Civic Health Index shows that Hoosiers' participation has improved in recent years.

"Things are better," said Randall Shepard, former chief justice of the Indiana Supreme Court. "Indiana on most measures is a little higher than average" among all states.

Shepard and Zoeller led a classroom discussion of the Civic Health Index, which found that Indiana residents like to talk about politics – 18th-highest rate nationally – but don't follow through in voting booths. The state ranked 41st nationally in election turnout last year after finishing last in 2014.

The third edition of the index was produced by the Indiana Bar Foundation, the Indiana Supreme Court, Indiana University, IUPUI and the National Conference on Citizenship.

Shepard said he was struck by some areas of civic engagement where Hoosiers did rank high. One involved buying or boycotting products and services because of political or social views.

"I did it myself in the last month, but I can't remember what it was," Shepard said. "I saw somebody's product, and I said, 'I don't want to do business with those guys,' and I moved down to buy somebody else's ketchup or coffee or something like that."

An even higher ranking that impressed Shepard was Indiana's third place for family members who eat dinner together. Shared meals demonstrate social connectivity, according to the Civic Health Index.

"My view of it is that the family unit, though evolving, is still a very basic part of the support structure for people who grow up and have successful lives on their own," he said.

For more on this story, read Saturday's print edition of The Journal Gazette or return to www.journalgazette.net after 1 a.m. Saturday.