"Almost without fail, the disengaged we spoke to described themselves as political outsiders," the study says. "On the basis of their experiences, they described government, bureaucrats, politicians and the media as working for someone else and, therefore, irrelevant to their needs."Of course, there figures to be far more work done in convincing voters who have decided the political process is futile. But Samara's conversations suggest that there's a massive potential constituency for anybody who can successfully convince doubtful voters that it's possible for politics to result in real positive results for ordinary people (as a matter of substance rather than sloganeering). And that in turn should offer hope for the engaged group that its work can lead to significant results if it helps to make that case.
Many of the disengaged didn't always feel powerless, the study says. But if they had a concern that needed to be resolved - everything from a speed bump on their street to day care for their children - "they found that no one was responsive."
Like non-voters, engaged citizens had little positive to say about politics. "Like the disengaged, they used words such as 'untrustworthy,' 'corruption,' and 'mismanagement' to characterize the political system," the study says. "But the engaged groups seemed to remain hopeful that things could be better."
While frustrated at times by the political system's response, members of the engaged group "kept picking up the phone, knocking on doors and sending emails until they saw results."
Wednesday, December 07, 2011
On common concerns
Most of the discussion of Samara's report on political disengagement has focused on the responses of non-voters. But perhaps more interesting is the fact that the disengaged and the currently-engaged seem to have virtually identical critiques of how our political system fails to function: