Report ranks Minnesota tops in civic engagement

Minnesota has long been a leader in voter turnout, and now a national index combining voter participation with factors like volunteering shows Minnesotans are more civically engaged than the residents of any other state.

The Center for Democracy and Citizenship at Augsburg College on Monday released the results from America's Civic Health Index, a project of the National Conference on Citizenship. The index was compiled based on a survey of 1,518 people contacted by phone and online about volunteering, neighborhood participation, charitable giving and other civic activities.

Besides ranking first in voter turnout from 2004-2008, Minnesota did well in several other categories:

- About 60 percent of Minnesotans donated at least $25 to charitable organizations (ranking third nationally).

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- About 60 percent of Minnesotans volunteered (ranking fourth nationally).

- About 38 percent of Minnesotans participated in regular or sustained volunteering from 2006 through 2008 (ranking third nationally).

- Only 58 percent of Minnesotans cut back on volunteering in 2008 compared to 72 percent nationally.

The index also showed 14 percent of Minnesotans attended a public meeting and 11 percent worked with others to fix a problem. Those results were within the top ten among states.

The other states ranked in the top five were Alaska, Vermont, Utah and South Dakota. Wisconsin ranked No. 16, Iowa was No. 9 and North Dakota was No. 13.

Harry Boyte, co-director of the Center for Democracy and Citizenship, said Minnesotans are proven civic workers.

"Minnesotans do more than help out or serve others, as important as these activities are," Boyte said. "We produce civic things together, from schools to parks, arts fairs to block parties. Public work builds civic muscle, developing confidence and hope that we can shape our communities and our destiny."

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, a Democrat, and Senate Minority Leader David Senjem, a Republican, both celebrated Minnesota's No. 1 ranking, saying community involvement has and will continue to drive progress in Minnesota.