It isn’t easy to discern where exactly the candidates stand, and it isn’t easy to understand the issues on the ballot. It can be very confusing, and many people feel lost, even those who are in the know. Misleading ads and confusing jargon leave us wondering who and what to vote for. But, in order to know the who and what, we need to know the why. Now comes the part where you research the people and the issues. Not an easy task!
Check the author.
Check the publisher.
Check the sources.
Use common sense: Avoid extreme left-leaning and extreme right-leaning sources, and utilize a variety of sources to check everything.
Quotes matter: When you read/hear that someone said something, find a video or transcript. Preferably video, if at all possible. Just find something that verifies exactly what that person said.
Context: Context is everything. It’s not about what was said, but how it was said. Context is defined as “the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed.”
An example of how context can mislead is when a politician claims his or her opponent said something, and everyone is suddenly “WTF???”. Well, that opponent may have said those words, but what were the circumstances? Recently, a gubernatorial candidate claimed his opponent made a statement which indicated that the opponent was against a certain issue. In fact, he ran a smear campaign focused on it. I thought to myself “This guy can’t be stupid enough to say something like that!” and of course I checked it out. It turned out that the opponent who made the statement wasn’t against the issue in question. His words were actually part of a much broader statement, and the words were taken out of context purely for the purposes of a smear campaign. So, when I heard the entire statement, I said to myself “Now THAT makes sense!” and it did. And it changed my mind on that candidate’s stance on the issue.
Media Bias: Unfortunately, it’s there. The good news is there are reputable media sources out there you can count on. I’m including an updated (Aug 2018) media bias chart. It’s a work in progress and has evolved over time. I have found this chart to be pretty accurate, as I read articles from a number of these sources. If you want to know how Ad Fontes Media (the creator) grades the media sources, go to How Ad Fontes Media Ranks Its News Sources.
Finally, if you want to check the facts, or better understand the candidates and issues, try the sources listed below. It’s not a complete list, but it’s a start.
Finally, Good Luck! We’re going to need it.