New study visualizes political favoritism from outer space

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Political leaders are known for bringing home the bacon to their home districts — or at least trying to. Studies often pin powerful committee chairmanships to percents of dollars directed toward local projects, or to more favorable shares of funding. But in other less developed countries, these same phenomenon can be observed — literally — from space.

A new study looked at years of satellite data showing changes in levels of electricity or “nighttime light intensity” over time. They find that the hometowns of leaders become brighter at night during the person’s rise to power, and often darker, following their fall.

“One prominent example was Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) during the reign of Mobuto Sese Seko. Mobuto, who was president between 1971 and 1997, was born near the small town of Gbadolite. While he was in power, the town flourished,” writes Stephanie Pappas for Live Science. “Years of satellite data reveal Gbadolite as initially dark at night, brightening under Mobuto and quickly fading again after the authoritarian ruler’s exile and death.”

Perhaps the only difference between this example and those in our own states may be units of measure.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.