How Can I Learn More About The Issues?
If all you did during election season was watch the political ads and listen to the polling data, you might think that all that makes a candidate fit for office is whether or not he or she is likeable or seems trustworthy. But as you know, there’s a lot more to good leadership than personality. Making a truly informed voting decision means understanding the issues at stake and getting reliable information on where the candidates stand.
Which Issues Matter?
Determining which issues matter to your vote can be more difficult than you might think. Some people are single-issue voters, meaning that they vote based on a candidate’s views on one subject—like abortion, the environment, or tax policy for instance. Others of us are not so lucky and must base our decisions on a broad selection of issues. However, we can’t all be experts on every subject, so it’s important to think about which issues really matter for you.
Maybe you’re just getting interested in politics and don’t really know what issues interest you. If that sounds like you, think about what it means for someone to be not just a good politician, but a good leader. Decide for yourself which issues you think absolutely must be handled correctly if the job of governance is to be done well. Remember, a political campaign is no different from a job interview; the person you vote for is the one you think will do that job better than the other applicants.
The more you learn about the issues you think matter, the more confident you’ll be in your voting decision. You don’t need to become a policy expert, of course, but good citizens are informed citizens.
Get to know the major positions in a debate and decide for yourself which ones you agree with. Despite what a lot of political talk show hosts might have you think, every side of a debate has reasons to support it.
Ask the Candidates
Once you’ve decided which issues are important, and understand the pros and cons on each side, you need to find out what the candidates think. So, why not go right to the source? Visit candidates’ websites and attend speeches and rallies if you can. If you’re lucky, maybe you can even get to ask them questions or voice your concerns. Also, watch debates and interviews, since it’s important to listen not only to the candidates’ positions but also how they frame their views when challenged.
Remember, it’s a hard fact of electoral politics that campaigning politicians oftentimes take inconsistent positions in an effort to appeal to as many people as possible. So, while it’s definitely important to hear what the candidates have to say in their own words, it’s also important to make sure you’re getting the full story.
Speak To the Experts
We live in a time when there are experts on everything, and political issues are no different. Non-partisan government watchdog organizations, interest groups, and think tanks devoted to specific issues perform an invaluable public service by collecting, cataloging, and analyzing the data the rest of us need to make informed voting decisions.
Some of these organizations simply gather and present all the information that can be found about candidates’ stances on certain issues. This can be a great way of verifying whether politicians’ records actually back up their claims.
Other groups that are more issue-focused endorse specific candidates based on in-depth analyses of the positions they’ve taken, their voting records and other criteria. For those of us who don’t necessarily have the time to do intense study of our candidates’ backgrounds, these kinds of groups can be extremely helpful.
If there are specific issues you feel truly passionate about, seek out the most reputable of these groups, read their mission statements to see where their political affiliations lie, and then see what they have to say about your candidates.
Watch Out For Bias
As you can see, in politics as in most things, it’s essential to always consider the source of your information. As cynical as it may sound, the truth is that everyone has something at stake in government decisions, so make sure you check the information you’re getting against other sources.
Once you’ve done your research and feel confident about your sources, you can be sure that you’re making reasoned, informed decisions in the voting booth. And when you cast your vote, America’s political system will have just gotten a little stronger.