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February 25, 2004

Paint By Issues

VoteByIssue.org, a collaboration between WBUR and PBS, has retooled its quiz to reflect the much-downsized Democratic candidate pool. You go through fourteen issues and choose which quotes appeal to you the most, and at the end, the site tells you who you agreed with on what issues.

This offers much more interactivity than your standard issue grid. Also, letting the reader approach the quotes mostly without baggage is nice. But political rhetoric is cheap. Sometimes you're choosing between slightly different phrasings of the same ideas. E.g.:

  • "We should rebuild Iraq with allies by our side, and with a real plan to win the peace. We should immediately take the American face off this occupation by giving civilian control to the United Nations; give the Iraqi people more control over their destinies; and seek allies for a larger security force in Iraq."
  • "The United States must work with our allies and we should put Iraqi governance and reconstruction under U.N. authority. I believe the U.S. should immediately put together a concrete plan for the transfer of power to the Iraqi people."

The first quote is John Edwards. The second is John Kerry's.

I wish there was a way to pair the candidates' words with their actions. Show us not just what they've said about an issue, but what they've done about it. I can't think of any way to do that and keep the blind element of it (if it mentioned that the candidate had signed a bill, for instance, it would clearly be talking about someone with executive experience).

Here's a site that shows both quotes and deeds, OnTheIssues.org. Unfortunately, the site design throws a lot of text at you, without much visual organization to it. And I'm not sure how comprehensive or up-to-date all of the information on the site is.

It may be difficult to put together an authoritative resource that meets my demands when there are still six potential candidates for President, but when the field narrows to two, this is the sort of thing a news website could do very effectively. The blind quiz probably wouldn't work if the field were narrowed to Bush and a Democratic candidate; it would probably be a lot easier to tell the difference. But that sort of interactive approach to sounding out the candidates' views offers a lot to learn.

Posted by Matt Thompson in new uses for Web, polls & surveys | Permalink


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