How To Pick a Candidate
PICK A CANDIDATE
A major political campaign, with all its excitement, activity and extensive news coverage, can bombard you with images and impressions that leave you with very little real information about candidates and their stands on issues. This voter’s guide will help you follow the campaigns, listen to the candidates and sort out what you need to know to pick a candidate.
SEE THROUGH THE IMAGES: Take a good look at campaign information
- Television and Radio Commercials: What did you learn about the candidate, the qualifications and the issues? Did the ad affect feelings or attitudes? Is that good or bad?
- Direct Mail: Realize that computers enable personalized appeals to selected groups. Is that good or bad? Why?
- Pamphlets and Flyers: Read carefully. They may have substantive information or may contain lies, distortions or evasions. Look for accusations such as untrue characterizations.
- Emotional Appeals: Listen carefully. Is the candidate making you angry so you accept arguments without question? Is the candidate looking for your sympathy? Look for facts, not manipulations.
- Endorsements: What qualifications does the endorser (usually a “celebrity”) have?
- Bandwagon: Is everyone indeed supporting this candidate? Does it make a difference?
DISTORTION TACTICS: Recognize the following:
- Name-calling: Watch for ignorant or absurd words (“his sister was a thespian”), inflammatory distortions of records. Don’t be sidetracked by attacks based on family, ethnicity, gender or race that make no difference in performance.
- Rumor-mongering: Watch for unsubstantiated statements or innuendo, for instance “Although everyone says my opponent is a crook, I have no personal knowledge of any wrongdoing.”
- Loaded Statements: Watch for implications, half-truths.
- Guilt by Association: Judge candidate’s own words and deeds, not only those reported by funding sources with noble names such as “Americans for Democracy.”
- Catchwords: Beware of empty phrases or buzzwords such as “left-wing” and “right-wing,” “liberal” and “conservative.”
- Baiting: Badgering and intimidation are unfair campaign tactics.
USE GROUP RATINGS SHREWDLY: Pay attention to the following:
- What is an organization’s reputation?
- What is the group’s bias? Find out by asking, including the reporter who wrote the story. Ask the supervisor of elections who the backers or campaign organizations are.
- What votes were included in the rating scale? What does this mean? Who was included? How many votes were cast?CHECK OUT THE SOURCES
Be a smart poll watcher
- Who sponsored the poll? Were all the figures released?
- Was the poll affected by a key event?
- What questions were asked? How were they asked?
- Who was interviewed? How were they selected?
- How many were interviewed? What is the margin for error?
- How many “undecided” answers were given?
- How long ago was the poll done?Spot phony issues
- Passing the Blame: Watch for broad accusations.
- Promising the Sky: Watch for promises that no one in that elective office can fulfilEvasion of meaningful issues
- Does the candidate give direct answers?
- Watch out for candidates who take about benefits and never mention costs or actual plans.RATE THE CANDIDATES
- What experience does the candidate have to qualify for this particular public office?
- Has the candidate ever attended a meeting of the body to which election is sought?
- Has the candidate ever lobbied or showed an interest in the political process?On How They Campaign:
- Is the campaign open, straightforward, issue-oriented?
- Is the candidate accessible, willing to debate?
- Does the candidate meet regularly with press and speak to diverse groups or does the candidate send stand-inInformation:
- Do campaign ads provide clear information on issue positions?
- Are the candidate’s qualifications clearly stated” Will they count in public office?
- Is the candidate’s voting record accessibleOpenness:
- In a broadcast interview, who is the interviewer?
- Are the answers to the point or evasive/ Are follow-up questions allowed?
- Where does the candidate make appearances? What are the implications of this?