Do Voters Care About Transportation Infrastructure?

A blog about business and economics.
May 11 2012 4:41 PM

Do Voters Care About Transportation Infrastructure?

I can think of lots of political roadblocks to higher levels of spending on transportation infrastructure, but the idea that voters don't care about it seems implausible to me. And yet here I read "Silver Line to Dulles not important to most Virginians, Post poll finds". In response, Alec MacGillis emphasizes the point that Virginia is a medium-sized and somewhat funny-shaped state, so naturally people who live nowhere near the Silver Line route aren't especially interested in the topic. The very same poll reveals that voters in the suburbs of Washington DC care a great deal about a signature local infrastructure project.

To me that regional divided much better expresses the political roadblock to this sort of investment. From a transportation-planning perspective it makes a lot of sense for people living in Herndon and Alexandria to be co-deciding with people who live in DC and Bethesda and Largo. It makes basically no sense for them to be co-deciding issues with people who live in Norfolk or Roanoake. Even places like Richmond and Charlottesville that aren't outrageously far from the DC suburbs are still substantially further away than even Baltimore. But state governments have a crucial role in infrastructure planning and infrastructure finance, even though the political units they govern often have no correspondence to meaningful economic units.

Advertisement

But the really weird thing is that it's by no means clear that this is what the poll has found. What it says is that 32 percent of the population says the Silver Line project is "not at all important" while 32 percent deems it either "extremely" or "very" important and a further 32 percent says it's "somewhat" important. The "not important to most Virginians" interpretation is supported by lumping the "somewhat" and "not at all" categories together as "negative" responses. But the straightforward reading of the poll is that the median Virginian thinks the Silver Line project is somewhat important. And it is somewhat important! So why not just say that?

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

Why Do Some People See the Virgin Mary in Grilled Cheese?

The science that explains the human need to find meaning in coincidences.

Jurisprudence

Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

What to Do if You Literally Get a Bug in Your Ear

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 8:43 PM This 17-Minute Tribute to David Fincher Is the Perfect Preparation for Gone Girl
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 16 2014 11:46 PM The Scariest Campfire Story More horrifying than bears, snakes, or hook-handed killers.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.