Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Ubuntu Quick Hitter: Impact of Commuting on Civic Participation

Commuting in this morning (ha-ha!) I heard this compelling piece on NPR.  Recent findings indicate that there is also a connection between the length of a person's commute and the likelihood that they will engage in the political process.  If true, this presents and daunting challenge particularly since commute times are getting longer and the American public in general is disengaging from the political process.

You can hear the story here:  Study: Commuting Adversely Effects Political Engagement

As you might imagine, the affect is not experienced equally across the socio-economic spectrum.  Poorer and working class families are disproportionately impacted by this dynamic, and as a consequence of the stress that comes with commuting are more likely to disengage from politics and civic opportunities. Interestingly, there is a tipping point.  Folks who are more well of, but who also have longer commutes are actually MORE likely to engage in politics and civic opportunities.  The reason-- because they have the resources to create buffers, such as a nice dinner, to mitigate the stress that comes with commuting.  Poorer people do not.  For them the stress of the commute leaves little energy and mindshare to participate in the political process, especially in their community-- and they have fewer resources for buffers to mitigate this stress.

Some of this we knew right?  But good to see other "science" verifying why it is challenging for lesser privileged citizens to be engaged in public deliberations and the political process.  The next time you hear someone railing about "why those people (poorer people) are not engaged, why we can't hear from them"-- show them this.

Oh yeah-- as the commentator suggests-- if we don't figure out a way to fix this the only people left participating in the political process will be-- those with money--or is it already that way now????