NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Hoosiers should not accept No. 44 ranking as one of the least patriotic states

Do we Hoosiers consider ourselves to be patriotic?

The definition of patriotism is to love or be devoted to one’s country.

So what do we feel about WalletHub’s 2019 survey released last Monday that ranks Indiana near the bottom of the list of U.S. states at No. 44?

The personal finance website is saying, according to the 13 indicators they used to compare all 50 of our United States, that Hoosiers are among the lowest in terms of devotion to our country. Does that ruffle your eagle feathers? It should.

After all, we’re keeping company with Nos. 45-50 on the list, which are (from 45 on down): Connecticut, Texas, West Virginia, California, New York and New Jersey. Do you think Indiana compares with California, New York and New Jersey in being patriotic? We think not.

Our neighbors were also pretty low: Michigan was 42nd, Illinois 41st, Ohio 37th and Kentucky 27th.

How accurate can such a survey be? Last year, WebHub had Indiana ranked 39th — in the same ballpark as this year. But this year’s No. 1 — New Hampshire — was 13th last year. No. 3 Vermont was 19th. And No. 6 Wisconsin was 28th.

WebHub says there were two basic dimensions of comparisons at the foundation of the study: “Military Engagement” and “Civic Engagement,” the latter being weighted much more heavily. The 13 relevant metrics that were evaluated covered one of the two dimensions and included military enlistment, veteran population, 2016 voter turnout, civic volunteering, jury participation and participation in civic organizations.

While we understand such surveys and methodological comparisons of statistics are based on random samples and the best available numbers, News-Sentinel.com argues that there is a lot more involved in the content of our patriotism than data spreadsheets.

Bottom line: Does this study really matter? More important, does patriotism matter?

An article in Axios on July 4 last year about the 2018 WebHub results said that according to Gallup polling data since 2001, patriotism is down among all Americans — 87 percent of American adults said they were extremely or very proud to be Americans in 2001, but only 75 percent made the same statement in 2017. Patriotic fervor reached a high point following the attacks on our country on Sept. 11, 2001. But why is patriotism waning? And what will that mean?

As indicated in the metrics of the WebHub survey, being patriotic in this nationwide ranking is, among other things, about the military and the honoring of our troops. Many have died to defend our freedom, so many patriotic citizens revere those true patriots who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

But patriotism is also about serving in other ways — whether on a jury or volunteering in some way to help improve our community and our nation. To some, being patriotic is exercising the right to vote and working throughout the election process to get others to do the same and to understand the issues. For others, being patriotic is fully embracing the rights of all men and women to live freely and speak out against injustices in society.

Last week we wrote about Ball State’s ranking of Indiana’s 92 counties in terms of quality of life, and we maintained that the results of that particular survey may not be spot-on accurate in every detail. But we argued that such surveys at least can be used as a tool for self-inspection and discussion in order to lead to improvement.

Same thing here. We may disagree with the results or the methodology, but let’s at least use the low ranking of our state as an impetus to examine ourselves to see if what we think is patriotism really transforms into patriotic actions and attitudes.

We believe patriotism is a lot more than displaying the American flag or shooting off fireworks for weeks before and after Independence Day.