Secretary of State Grimes visits WKU to discuss civic engagement

Published: Feb. 1, 2017 at 10:42 PM CST
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Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes visited Bowling Green to to go over reports published in the 2016 Kentucky Civic Health Index Wednesday night.

Numbers from the 2016 Civic Health Index show that voter registration and voter turnout in Kentucky continue to be higher than the national average.

"Our democracy is at it's best when everybody's voice is heard," says Secretary Grimes. "We're doing a great job with registration. I think the next step is translating that registration into participation."

Secretary Grimes believes a huge part of the high registration numbers is due to online registration which makes it easier to register.

The Civic Health Index also shows that in Kentucky there is a great disconnect between voters and public institutions like government and news media. The confidence placed in "the media" ranks higher than only Utah, Montana and New Mexico, and sits 8.5 percentage points lower than the National Average, and nearly 15% higher than in 2011.

"Particularly looking at millennials," says Western Kentucky University Student Body President, Jay Todd Richey, "representing millennials like himself, "some of the main reasons for distrust in public institutions like media and government, are due to the fragmentation of media. People seek to be affirmed rather than informed."

Secretary Grimes says advancements in technology now allow people to interact with news media in ways they never could before. She says it's been very helpful to the masses, but it still creates some problems.

"Technology has been a huge advantage for many over the years," she says, "but what we've seen is there's a learning curve that we have to catch up to, to make sure that people are having trust in what they're seeing when it comes to the technology that they're using."

One WKU professor of journalism says people's view of the government tend to come from their experiences with the government.

"I truly believe that the news media does more good than harm," says Mac McKerral, "and I truly believe the government does more good than harm. Certainly the people in Flint, Michigan understand what good journalism can do for their community, because without good journalism they'd still be drinking lead-filled water."

Secretary Grimes says there's work to be done to improve on the numbers published in the Civic Health Index, and that's why she wants to bring people together for discussions like Wednesday afternoon.

"I have to believe that the work that we have done over the course of five years has made a difference," she says, "but we have more work to do when it comes to turning around the lack of faith in our institutions. My hope is that these conversations can help us produce what we need to do to make sure that we can climb the ladder in that indicator as well."

The 2016 Civic Health Index also shows that Kentucky is more connected to neighbors and family, but that they trust their neighbors less than the national average.

To view the Civic Health Index in its entirety, you can follow the link attached to this story.