Public Policy Professor Discusses Civic Engagement in the 2020 Election

By Maya Prasad and Samantha Monterroso |

Following the 2020 election, a new podcast episode of Policy Chats features a discussion with Kevin Esterling, a professor of political science and public policy at the University of California, Riverside (UCR) about utilizing technology to bridge the communication gap between constituents and representatives as well as rifts in the Democratic Party.

Esterling is a professor of political science and public policy, and serves as the director of UCR’s Laboratory for Technology, Communication and Democracy (TeCD-Lab). According to his profile, “his current work focuses on deliberative democracy and the design of technology that leads citizens to engage constructively in public discourse.”

The TeCD-Lab website states that it “aims to design and develop communication technology that makes democracy more robust, responsive and resilient [with a mission] to solve the problem of communication at the scale of modern democracy by developing technology that can give individuals a direct voice in policy making, and elected officials insights into the considered opinions of their constituents.”

When discussing a lack of communication between constituents and their representatives, Esterling said, “We have a problem of scale in our democracy, which is that our country is of such a size that it’s hard for individuals to find they have a voice in government.” 

Daisy Gonzalez, a senior public policy major who served as co-interviewer for the episode, said, “Professor Esterling gave us a unique perspective on new technological innovations that our representatives can utilize to increase citizen engagement and build trust. After experiencing an intense election cycle, the discussion opened my eyes to how important it is to construct a more deliberative democracy.”

Launched in 2020, the UCR School of Public Policy podcast series explores current public policy issues with guests from throughout the policy world. Episodes are accessible via Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Anchor. More information is also available through the UCR School of Public Policy podcast page.