Voting By Calculator?

When Pew Research asked voters what they wanted in their presidential campaign news, “candidates’ positions on the issues” was the leading answer (77% wanted more, 17% wanted less). All other issues, such as “candidates personal backgrounds and experiences” (55% more, 36% less), ranked much lower.

This doesn’t surprise me. People at the water cooler who say “I just want hear about their stands on the issue” come across as more thoughtful than those of us saying “I just want to see how they hold up on the Daily Show.”

Yes, stands on the issues obviously matter. A lot. So, why don’t we just call off the rest of the campaign, pull up one of those presidential candidate calculators, peck in our answers, and cast our ballots based on what the calculator tells us? You know, the wonk version of match.com.

The issue calculators are instructive and fun, and I’d encourage folks to give one a whirl. The feedback it gives you might surprise you.

But the implication behind the candidate calculator is that issue stands are the whole enchilada, and that’s a dangerous way to think about voting and news coverage. After all, just because my crazy Uncle Louie agrees with me on 100% of the issues, doesn’t mean he would be my best choice for President. Trust me on this.

Moreoever, some of the most important issues the next president will encounter are not listed on the candidate calculators, because we don’t know about them yet. Before President Bush was elected, we didn’t expect terrorists to fly jets into office buildings, New Orleans to be underwater, scores of middle class families to lose their homes to foreclosure, or $95 per barrel oil.

We need to guage what kind of person and leader the candidates are to try to learn how they will handle the unknown issues on the horizon. Are they an engaging enough personality to rally support behind their positions nationally and internationally? When you look at their body language, which of the issues seem to be passionate priorities and which seem to be obligatory after-thoughts? How likely are they to get caught up in scandals that prevent them from doing their job well? When it comes to negotiating with opponents, are they more stubborn/resolute or flexible/wishy-washy?

I’m probably more interested in public policy positions than most, but I hope the news coverage never gets too issue-centric. I still want to see the fluffy debate questions, up-close-and personal profiles, unscripted candid camera moments, and Oprah/Letterman/Stewart/Babba Wawa gab fests. Because brief glimpses of unprogrammed candidate humanity informs our guts, and our guts should guide our votes at least as much as the issue calculators.

– Loveland

4 thoughts on “Voting By Calculator?

  1. Obama says:

    Hillary criticized for press strategy

    November 23, 2007

    By Christina Bellantoni

    When Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton wants to get a message out, her presidential campaign handpicks news outlets. Or, in some cases, bypasses the media entirely.

    The New York Democrat’s third-quarter fundraising blowout was leaked to the Drudge Report. She made sure an Iowa newspaper printed her comments that she found Sen. Barack Obama’s answer to a foreign-policy question “irresponsible” and “naive.” She also uses her “Hillary Hub” campaign creation to break news.

    The strategy allows Mrs. Clinton — who rarely holds press availabilities — to avoid taking questions from reporters who cover her campaign and who might have detailed follow-up queries to her carefully planned policy announcements.

    Mrs. Clinton’s rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination have been painting her as someone who dodges tough questions or parses answers to difficult issues. Her opponents stepped up the pressure after it was revealed her campaign staff planted two questions with supporters at a campaign event.

  2. Actually, beyond knowing their stance on an issue, it’s important to find out WHY they hold that stance. And from there, if they bring up stuff that’s untrue to justify their stance, then we want to know that they’re bringing up stuff that’s not true and find out WHY that is. Beyond that, who cares how they do their hair or if they speak in quintuplets? If we can understand how they think, the rest is worse than filler–it’s obfuscation that won’t really mean beans when someone becomes president.

    As an example, I’ve never had to stare directly into GW’s vacant eye to know that nothing lies beyond; just listening to him explain what tribal sovereignty means in this day and age really says it all. And now that he’s president, it wouldn’t be at all relevant that he had a vacant eye if he didn’t have a vacant governing philosophy to accompany it. Vacant eye=non-issue. Vacant governing philosophy=big issue. This is a significant distinction that gets clouded by camera cataracts.

  3. Matthew says:

    I have spent the previous 12 months (approximately) thinking that Barack Obama was most closely aligned with my ideals and values (plus he isn’t Hilary Clinton, a sort of play on “Anybody but Bush” from the 2004 campaign).

    Interestingly enough the calculator told me that my best political match is Dennis Kucinich. Unfortunately while this is all fine and good, Dennis Kucinich has absolutely no ability to win any type of major political campaign.

    Therefore my thought process clearly is not directly related to the issues at hand in most cases, but rather the current trending of the politicans themselves. I would rather be voting for someone who’s views don’t necessairly directly align to my own, but more or less are similar – if it means that I don’t have to deal with someone I completely dislike.

    In local politics, I believe that you can choose a candidate based solely on ideals, and stick with that person through the end, as the result isn’t life altering in most cases. But as the scope gets broader, you have to begin thinking with more strategy as the result can be extrodinairly life altering.

    At this point, a vote for Dennis Kucinich would be equal to a vote for a trash can for president.

    So Thank You, really impressive internet candidate issue calculator, you helped me realize that there are people out there who think like me.

    And Thank You! Mr. Kucinich for thinking like me, but you’ll have to wait until 2012 for me to even reconsider you as a worthwhile presidential candidate, and that future isn’t looking so bright either.

  4. My wife, a Kucinich fan, still has a New Yorker cartoon on the refrigerator from the last campaign showing Kucinich winning the Mars Primary.

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