Where to start my last minute voting research?
March 1, 2020 1:39 PM   Subscribe

Hi, everyone. For Reasons, I am unprepared to vote in the U.S. democratic primary this Tuesday. In terms of decision-making, that is - I am a registered voter and know my polling location.

I have effectively been living under a rock for the last year, but I have 6-8 hours before the election that I can use to watch debates, read articles, etc. What media should I consume for the purpose of gaining a factual understanding of each candidate's position policies, strengths, weaknesses, and character?

I suspect this question could get messy, so just to be clear, I am not looking to told who to vote for! I'm looking for material that will help me make up my own mind. I know that journalistic bias is a thing, but for the purposes of this question I prefer as-reputable-as-can-be-expected news coverage over op-ed/opinion/essay pieces. Please, please no links to twitter.

Also, please know that I am ashamed of my lack of engagement up to now. I understand that there are excellent reasons to track candidates throughout the arc of their campaigns rather than trying to do some kind of final exam style cram session, but for mental health and other reasons this is where I'm at. Please be kind? Thank you!
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (21 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
This Washington Post quiz will tell you how candidate platforms align with your ideals.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 1:48 PM on March 1, 2020 [8 favorites]

Honestly by doing any research at all you have a leg up on many voters!

The League of Women Voters puts out information about candidates (including local ones when it's available). It's a non-partisan group. If you're talking about presidential candidates, Vox News has a "The Case For . . ." series that makes a case for each Democratic presidential primary candidate. I like Vox in general because they offer explainers for different policy positions, so you could use those to inform yourself about the merits and downsides of different candidates' proposed policies.
posted by schroedinger at 1:49 PM on March 1, 2020 [3 favorites]

Vox did a series of articles, making the case for each of what they considered to be the frontrunners in the Dem. primary. (I read a few, and I like Vox, but I can't guarantee the total absence of bias.)

If you're considered about electability, 538 has considered it in two articles. (538 is also the best spot to keep track of polling, without the irrational mood swings of "this poll says this!" and, two days later, "this other poll says this other thing!".)

The Root reviewed candidates' platforms from the perspective of Black USA.
posted by alittleknowledge at 1:52 PM on March 1, 2020 [5 favorites]

If you want to watch debates, I'd skip the early ones if I were you. Too many people for anyone to actually make any sort of substantial point. And the most recent one in South Carolina was a trainwreck because the moderators couldn't control the candidates and everyone just yelled over each other. Maybe just watch the Nevada one from a couple of weeks ago.
posted by Weeping_angel at 1:52 PM on March 1, 2020 [4 favorites]

To be clear - you are asking about the presidential primary? Your state might also have other races on the ballot as well.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:00 PM on March 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

Just a gentle word of caution about the link to The Root above. The article is reviewing each candidate's specific policy plan tailored toward black Americans, which is quite different from reviewing how good their whole "platform" is "from the perspective of Black USA."

For example, if a candidate believes that universal policies are more effective at lifting up communities of color – not least because universal policies are much less likely to be clawed back when the next Republican or conservative Democrat takes office down the road – then, on this list, they will rank below a candidate who has a more targeted "plan" to point to. Yet that plan is actually much more precarious.

This helps explain why, on the Root's list, you see high ranks for Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren (who are each currently polling at 10% nationally with black Americans) and lower ranks for Bernie Sanders (who is polling at 26%, in first place, with an 11 point lead over the next candidate).
posted by Beardman at 2:09 PM on March 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

This is hard. I am not planning to vote for the person whose positions align best with mine according to the Washington Post quiz linked above, because "do I judge this person to have the kind of character I think makes for a good President" is not a question about a policy position but it is a question that affects many people's choices, including mine.

I would look at the statements on the candidates' websites and see which ones are endorsed by people you really trust and admire. I mean, find out their positions on issues too, especially if there's one issue that's a dominant consideration for you!

And don't feel bad. You are in the position the vast majority of voters are in regarding elections for any office lower than President, congressperson, or governor.
posted by escabeche at 2:13 PM on March 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

One more thought: if there are organizations you trust, that align with your perspectives on important issues, consider what they've written and if they've endorsed anyone.

E.g. the Sierra Club may do a better job on evaluating a candidate's proposed environmental policies, similarly for a small business group and policies to encourage small business growth, or Planned Parenthood and maternal and child health. (Up to you to pick the advocacy groups, of course; my examples just for illustration).

Good luck.
posted by alittleknowledge at 2:26 PM on March 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

You may find responses to this previous question helpful.
posted by bookmammal at 2:29 PM on March 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

I tend to use the local League of Women Voters Candidates’ Answers blurbs to inform my votes at the local level. I like seeing how candidates respond to questions in a format that lets me notice derails more easily. I also think the quality of their prose is a window (however imperfect) into the quality of their thinking and judgment, which will matter a lot once they’re in office and facing unexpected crises (hello SARS-CoV-2!). Here’s what the Democratic presidential candidates had to say. This may be less useful than it is with local candidates, though, as chances are these answers were provided by someone else on the campaign.
posted by eirias at 2:33 PM on March 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

If applicable: Voter's Edge California Voter Guide is helpful (info for non-presidential contests, too, a fill-in-and-print-out sample ballot to bring to the polling place, plus: The League of Women Voters of California’s Education Fund, which partners to produce Voter’s Edge California, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization and never advocates).

Make sure you're up to date on the current contenders; for example, right now Ballotpedia has Mr. Buttigieg as a candidate, and he ended his campaign earlier today.
posted by Iris Gambol at 3:50 PM on March 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

The current candidates are (in alphabetical order by last name): Biden, Bloomberg, Gabbard, Klobuchar, Sanders, Warren.

isidewith.com has a good general-purpose quiz. However note that it just tells you where the candidates stand on the issues; it doesn’t know about their personalities or character.
posted by madcaptenor at 3:57 PM on March 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

Al Jazeera has a profile for each candidate. They are titled “[Candidate Name]: Who is he/she? Where does he/she stand on key issues?”
posted by ReginaHart at 4:07 PM on March 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

I'd like to second littleknowledge's recommendation of Vox's "The case for..." series. They're each written by a staff member who favors that candidate (I think there's one exception). They've covered all the main candidates. You can definitely read them in a few hours, and poke around for around additional information or check other sources.
posted by nangar at 4:07 PM on March 1, 2020

Unsure how effective those quizzes mentioned above are now that Pete has dropped out rather unexpectedly

One thing that will heavily influence my vote is the candidates performance in head-to-head battles in stated Dems need to win in November. You can find large collections of these at 538's website along with poll ratings.
posted by shaademaan at 5:02 PM on March 1, 2020

My wife and I already know how we're voting at the top of the ticket, so we sat down this afternoon with a sample ballot and Googled everyone else. We looked at websites, looked at endorsements, checked platforms. It took maybe half an hour to look through everyone - endorsements are pretty valuable to us and news was handy too: for example, we quickly found a news story about a local candidate for board of ed who'd literally preached in the streets about his objections to same-sex marriage (that's a no go for us). We don't team vote but we're pretty copasetic in our views, so working through the list together was useful.

(For us, if we have no other criteria to separate candidates in a race, we'll default to the Black women.)
posted by joycehealy at 5:08 PM on March 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

Read the candidate's websites, specifically their policy positions. Yes, these are political documents intended to be persuasive, not news. Nevertheless, you will learn a great deal from them about what candidates' ideas are, how they reason, and what they think of you.
posted by shadygrove at 5:17 PM on March 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

Several candidates withdrew from the presidential primary recently, but may be on your ballot anyways because it was printed before they dropped out. Here are the candidates who are not running even though you may see their names:
  • Buttigieg
  • Steyer
  • Patrick
  • Bennet
  • Yang

posted by mbrubeck at 7:49 PM on March 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

I wouldn't waste time watching debates or other direct campaigning. I usually do a search for "[my county name] County" voter guide or [my city name] voter guide to see what's being recommended by people who pay more attention to this than I'm able to.

Note, it's useful to pay attention to who's behind the voter guide, as well as who's reported as supporting or opposing various measures. For example, here in Oakland we have Measure Q on the ballot. In support, an extensive list including Representative Barbara Lee, most of the City Council, the Sierra Club, multiple local community organizations, and more (too many to list on the mailing, apparently). Opposed are a professional realtors organization and a landlords organization. Given that, I know how I'm voting.
posted by Lexica at 8:11 PM on March 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

It’s been months since I took that Washington Post quiz, but I found some inaccurate information in it. And there are things that are important to me that it didn’t take into account.
posted by MexicanYenta at 2:12 AM on March 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

As I was saying, make sure your info is up to date as you head to the polls tomorrow: Amy Klobuchar ends 2020 presidential campaign
posted by Iris Gambol at 11:05 AM on March 2, 2020

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