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How Patriotic Is Your State?

As the nation’s Independence Day approaches, a report analyzes which state is the most patriotic based upon its military and civic engagement. Montana scored the highest. Republican states are more patriotic than Democratic ones, but just barely.

American flag hanging outside a porch
(BublikHaus/Shutterstock)
This year’s Fourth of July celebrations will be unlike any that have come before. The nation is still reckoning with the events of the past year, but a new president has been sworn in, the police officer who killed George Floyd has been sentenced to prison and many states have begun to lift coronavirus restrictions and mandates as vaccination rates continue to rise. For some, these events have given closure, hope and calm ahead of the nation’s Independence Day, while others may feel less patriotic than ever before.

A new report from WalletHub ranks the nation’s states based on their levels of patriotism. The report evaluated each state based upon two categories, military engagement and civic engagement, which were then broken down further into 13 evaluating indicators. The report collected data from organizations such as the U.S. Census Bureau, Department of Veterans Affairs, Peace Corps, Military OneSource, the United States Elections Project and the Center for American Progress to analyze each state’s participation in the military, volunteer activities, elections and voting, trials and juries and civics education. Then each state was ranked on a 100-point scale for the two categories.

The report found that Montana was the most patriotic state overall, with a total score of 61.91 points. New York came in last place, earning just over one-third as many points.
Source: WalletHub
Alaska was the most militarily engaged state and also ranked highest for the number of veterans per capita. Massachusetts was the least engaged with the military and was also third from last for average number of military enlistees, only above Rhode Island and North Dakota.
The states with the most and fewest veterans per capita graphic
(WalletHub)
Montana, the overall most patriotic state, was also the highest ranked state for civic engagement and the second highest for most Peace Corps volunteers per capita. Florida was the least civically engaged and had the lowest volunteer rate of all states. Another key factor of civic engagement is voter participation. New Jersey had the highest percentage of adults vote in the 2020 presidential election, while Arkansas had the lowest number of adults participate.

There was no clear political alignment among states that were ranked more patriotic. Of the main rankings overall — military engagement and civic engagement — at least one Democratic and one Republican state ranked in the top five of each category. The most partisan ranking was for military engagement. Connecticut, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts, which all voted for Biden, filled the lowest five ranks. States that voted for Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election averaged 25.68 points while states that voted for Joe Biden had an average of 25.32, suggesting that Republican states are more patriotic, but just slightly.
Graphic displaying the states with the highest and lowest percentage of adults who voted in the 2020 Presidential Election
(WalletHub)
Patriotism is a hard quality to quantify. Christie L. Maloyed, an associate professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, said, “there are two general ways to exhibit patriotism: duty and engagement.” But those two factors can look very different to different individuals.

Some scholars, like Maloyed, also acknowledge that patriotism may be impacted by a community’s economic resources. If a community does not have many economic resources, the individuals in that group may be more focused on meeting their basic needs, like buying food, making rent payments and taking care of their children, she explained. They simply may not have any available time to volunteer or cast their ballot on election day.

But there is one way in which patriotism can be increased across all communities: civic education. Libby Newman of Rider University said that simply requiring students to learn about American history is not enough, because being patriotic involves much more than just historical knowledge.

“It requires a commitment to active participation in the community and politics (with voting as a minimum), and a willingness to work with fellow citizens to address our shared problems and to advance a common good, along with the media and information literacy to stay informed about one’s community and nation,” she said. “Civic education requirements vary greatly from state to state, but few have gone far enough.”

As the last year has shown, the United States is comprised of different ideas and beliefs, so maybe patriotism is simply embracing the nation’s vast diversity. “The United States is a work in progress — an ongoing experiment — and we need citizens who are willing to commit themselves to that project,” Newman said.

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Zoe is the web producer and a writer for Governing.
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