The L.A. Times a couple of weeks ago wrote a hand-wringing story about a new poll showing that fewer California voters see local politics as worthwhile. The poll noted that local politics used to have a bit of a halo—people famously hated what they saw in Washington or Sacramento, but liked their own local officials and thought local political involvement was worthwhile.

But the findings of the LA Times/USC Dornsife poll showed disenchantment. More than a quarter of California voters say elected officials aren’t responsive to their needs. 49 percent said their community didn’t benefit when they donated money to a candidate. Fewer than 7 in 10 voters thought that volunteering for a candidate would help their community. The Times noted that there were still big consensuses on the community benefit of volunteering for civic groups (90 percent), discussing events (83 percent), and giving money to charity (84 percent).

Much of the story then sought to rationalize why people had turned against such a supposedly obvious good — local political involvement. The big theory was that disgust at national politics was bleeding into local.

The story didn’t entertain another theory—that the skeptics about local political involvement are right to stay away.

The case against local political involvement is strong in California. Local governments have little power and discretion in our highly centralized and regulated state. We discourage political engagement at the local level by requiring local elections to be nonpartisan, thus keeping out political parties, the chief way human beings engage in politics. And the few decisions left to local governments are virtually always determined by the interests with money – developers and public employees.

Plus, in the Internet era, those who engage inevitably have to deal with online nastiness and personal attacks.

When you think about how little benefit derives from local political engagement in California, it’s no wonder that skepticism is rising in polls.  What’s remarkable is that so many people still believe such engagement has real value.