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NPR had this story yesterday: Study: Commuting Adversely Effects Political Engagement

Gist is that the longer your commute, the less likely you are to care about politics. Vote, have a voice, be involved.

The discussion blamed the correlation on stress. A stressful commute leaves people too tired to think about their world. They also said that the effect was more dramatic on lower income levels... a poor person with a long commute was very unlikely to be politically involved. A wealthy person with a long commute was actually more likely, probably because they can buy stuff when they get home to help them de-stress.

That sounded like a pretty screwed up theory to me, sounds like they were grasping at an explanation.

I've written before about isolationism and how I became much more politically motivated (and a bit more liberal) when I got to live in a lower-income area. I was exposed to different things.

I would think a commute would have the same effect. If you're wealthy, your commute probably takes you through lower income areas and you either want to make things better for them, or protect what you have.

If you're poor, you a long commute might take you out to more affluent areas. Just like pictures of skinny people do not help motivate dieters, being around rich people does not help the poor. It just makes everyone feel defeated. Remember "Bowling for Columbine", when he examined how long that woman had to ride a bus to get out to a mall to make fudge for rich people? She was away from her kid for the vast majority of the day... didn't excuse his behavior, but it was a shocking look at a case where everyone was asking "Where is the mother?"

So much about our politics could be fixed by listening to each other a little bit, living around each other, getting out of our little isolated boxes.



( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 20th, 2013 05:52 pm (UTC)
I actually found my longer commute made me more angry at situations and more likely to be active about those issues. I had longer to think and listen to NPR and gave me things to research when I got home or during slow times in the lab. Maybe because I was driving through idyllic countryside and not through communities?
Nov. 20th, 2013 06:55 pm (UTC)
I was more politically informed due to NPR when I was doing long (45 min each way commutes.) I was not driving through more communities because much of the drive was on the interstate which is usually blocked off from the surrounding communities with at least a noise barrier.

The commute was stressful.
Nov. 21st, 2013 04:26 am (UTC)
Yup, I was going to say that wealthier commuters are more likely to listen to NPR (or other local news outlets) or listen to books on tape, etc. In part because in your own car, which you can afford not to share with other people, you can listen to whatever you want.
Nov. 21st, 2013 03:37 am (UTC)
I think most commuters have a similar experience to mine, where they work in a large city and have to drive and walk past many panhandlers on their way into work. In the past year of doing this, I've gone from being compassionate and wanting to help every one of them, to cynical and callus about it. I think it would be an easy jump to say "screw it, the world is f-ed up and I can't do anything about it."

There are two things that keep me from getting there. 1) I've always been a political person, so it would be difficult for me to just stop caring about it. 2) Podcasts. These are what keep me sane in the 1-3 hours a day I spend driving. Podcasts are also somewhat socioeconomic. My nice car integrates almost effortlessly with my nice phone, making it easy to listen to these. A lower income person could easily be stuck listening to top 40 radio. If that were my only choice, I'd probably stop caring about politics too.

Edited at 2013-11-21 03:38 am (UTC)
Nov. 21st, 2013 05:43 am (UTC)
Wouldn't it just be that you don't spend as much time in/around your home? I'm home-based, my husband and I have chosen to live in a place near his job. Compared with my mother and brother who live in one (each) town and commute 30 minutes to other towns for work- they don't shop or eat out or do much of anything in their town outside their own four walls.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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