A report by the personal finance website WalletHub ranked Alabama as the 43rd most patriotic state by military and civic engagement data.
The study ranked each state according to 13 factors including number of military enlistees, voter turnout, and volunteerism. Virginia took the first spot overall, followed by Montana and Alaska.
Only considering military engagement, Alabama would be ranked 12th, but its lowest scores in civic engagement — 50th in Peace Corps volunteers, 47th in volunteer rate, and 46th in voter turnout for the 2020 presidential election — brought Alabama near the bottom of the list. In 2019 data, Alabama was ranked seventh in per capita distribution of troops deployed in post-9/11 wars.
“Veterans who have served in combat know the true meaning of patriotism. It’s more than a bumper sticker or waving the flag. It includes service, sacrifice and putting your country ahead of yourself,” Danny Sample, State Commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Department of Alabama, said. “We are blessed to live in a state that values the military and veterans. In my travels throughout this state, I have been overwhelmed by the expressions of support for the VFW. Military values such as duty, honor and country are shared by most Alabamians — even if they have never served.”
Though VFW is primarily focused on assisting veterans, they participate in advocacy and community service activities that could easily be identified as “civic engagement” in WalletHub’s criteria.
“When an EF-2 tornado struck Selma in January — causing widespread damage — the VFW was one of the first organizations on the scene. We provided water, clothing, baby formula and other essential items to local residents whose homes had been damaged or destroyed. We were welcomed there, and I’m proud of that. Honestly, it would not matter to me if Alabama was #1 or #43 — we’d still be doing what we do,” Sample said.
Given the indefinite inference of the abstract idea of patriotism from census data, WalletHub surveyed nine academics regarding the nature of patriotism and what makes a good patriot. Answers ranged from a belief in America’s founding principles and a love of individual liberty to promoting thoughtful criticism of one’s own country and embracing equality.
“Patriotism is, and pretty much always has been a controversial idea. Aside from the vague notion that it represents some kind of pride in or loyalty to your country, no one can quite pin down exactly what it entails. Social scientists mostly dodge the question when researching patriotism, letting the citizens they study decide individually what it means to them to be patriotic,” D. Stephen Voss, associate professor of political science at the University of Kentucky, said.