Forty percent of California's registered voters say they pay regular attention to news about government and politics, according to the latest Field Poll directed at the state's electorate. Since that percentage is often greater than the number of voters who cast ballots in state elections, there may be cause for greater concern than usually accompanies low turnout statistics.
One-third of the registered voters in the same sample appear to follow government and politics some of the time, while another one-fourth of them say they follow news about government and politics sporadically, which may range from a few times a month to a few times a year. As for the rest, they may have absolutely no interest whatsoever, or they only are stirred to action when they receive a sample ballot in the mail.
If anything, it is easy to regard the poll numbers related to interest in political news as inflated because most people think that, of course, good citizens should be paying attention to government and politics, and, as a result, they overstate their degree of attentiveness. Yet, another school of thought says the anonymity of the polling process may result in accurate answers because there is no possibility of ethical reproach.
Not surprisingly, however the totals in polls break down, those registered voters who are actively involved with a political party, or perceive themselves as members of an issue constituency, especially one that is heated and receives extensive media attention, are more prone to pay attention to government and politics in the news.
Also important are avenues of access to the political process. Impediments to civic engagement correlate with the extent of that engagement. If one lives in a community where different options exist for live participation, such as meetings being scheduled at times that are convenient for a broad cross-section of residents, where meetings can be viewed remotely, or where videos of meetings are available as soon as possible after the meeting.
The relationship of access to involvement segues into the question of why there appears to be so little concern that Malibu City Hall has not resolved the problems with live streaming of city council or other important municipal meetings yet.
The city staff's move to shiny new quarters appears to have gone smoothly in nearly every other way, except for the inability to work out live video access. So far, two meetings have been skipped altogether; while another had serious audio issues.
Calls to City Hall don't seem to provide any explanations.
One is told that the inquiry will be forwarded to
the IT staff. No one appears to know what the specifics
of the problem are, or whether someone will get back to
the inquirer with any information.
This does not seem to perturb anyone on the city staff, or even on the city council. The lack of live streaming has not been mentioned at the meetings. People attending the meetings appear to glance about as if live filming is taking place, but seem unaware there is none.
Even the loss of a single opportunity for civic involvement is one loss too many.
Citizens are often regarded as necessities to be trotted out during elections. They are expected to cast their ballots after overpriced and over-orchestrated campaigns, then to go away until it is time for them to return to the polls again.
There are many serious and complicated issues facing Malibu at this point in time. Hopefully, it will be a priority to fix the equipment that will bring City Hall to the people, and not limit them to vice versa.