Politics/Law/Government

USAToday’s match game: All you need to pick a candidate

I feel sorry for those folks who cannot decide which presidential candidate to vote for when the time comes to pull that lever, poke that chad or touch that screen. Thanks to the infinite wisdom of USAToday — which has done my thinking for me — I now know which candidate righteously deserves my vote.

USAToday‘s Web site now sports the “Candidate match game.” All you have to do is answer 11 multiple-choice questions — three on the Iraq war, two on immigration, two on health care, one on same-sex marriage and one each on tax reform, global warming and candidate experience. And presto: Your presidential choice is revealed.

I’m all set now. Drum roll, please. Wait for it, wait for it … I shall vote for …

… Dennis Kucinich? Eek!

Frankly, I’m as shocked as you. According to the game’s results, my back-up choices are Bill Richardson followed by John Edwards. But, because people tend to weight issues differently, USAToday has provided a “slider” bar that allows you to weight or unweight your answers. If I unweight the same-sex marriage and experience questions, Rep. Kucinich remains my choice but Gov. Richardson drops out, replaced by Sen. Obama

But it’s a survey. Each question has limited responses. You select the one that best suits your thinking — even if it’s not quite on the mark. And there may be issues that USAToday does not ask in this game that may been of keen interest to you — the size of the federal deficit, the practice of hiding earmarks, increasing (or decreasing) federal spending, unfunded mandates on the states, the sorry state of the federal government’s willingness or ability to regulate enormously large industries, anti-terrorism measures in ports and harbors, inspection of food and food ingredient imports (especially from China), federal and state support for measures that will fundamentally change how this country educates its children … it’s a lengthy list.

USAToday only asked questions about those issues that the candidates wish to use to frame this election. There’s a world of questions I’d like to ask the candidates that they probably don’t want to answer. Those are the questions USAToday (and The Washington Post and The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times and network news and CNN and every newspaper and local TV news station in a primary or caucus state) ought to be asking. But they’re not.

It’s sad that USAToday devoted resources to a game instead of the rigorous reporting the electorate needs to deflect the messaging strategies of these candidates’ high-priced consultants.

Meanwhile, I’m sending a check to Rep. Kucinich!

8 replies »

  1. I’ll split hairs with you for just a moment, though:

    Are the issues in the poll the issues the candidates want to frame the election by, or are they issues that pollsters (or even the media) are using to frame the election?

    As you say, the poll, by its very nature, is limited and thus only partially relevant. When I took it, Some questions had four possible answers that didn’t reflect my exact views, but I had to pick the “best available” answer. Not ideal, but better than nothing, I guess.

    Is it fair to criticize USA Today for creating the poll instead of doing in-depth reporting? That’s a false choice since the paper has been doing a fair job of covering the campaign; the poll was created as a sidebar piece. I saw it more as the paper’s creating something in addition to rather than instead of in-depth reporting.

    The more tools you make available, the more likely it is that someone will find something of use to them as they try to educate themselves about the election.

    I think the poll has value because it allows a voter to compare his/her views with a candidate’s actual views (rather than a media image or a preconceived perception). That is at least a starting point. Many people I know who’ve done the poll have been surprised at the results (i.e., “I didn’t know he thought the same way I do)—and I think that’s been good.

    And regardless of the match-ups, some people will still vote or not vote for a candidate, whether they match up or not, because of reasons beyond the poll’s scope. Hillary, for instance, garners strong emotional reactions from voters for reasons the poll couldn’t even begin to explore.

    So, the poll may be “light,” but I don’t think it’s worthless. For many of the students we serve, it might be just the perfect place to begining their own political educations.

  2. Oh, ye of the dark side,

    I’ll grant you that the “game” may provoke a potential voter to explore beyond these issues. As a conversational tool, it may be useful.

    But, as I view it from my ivory tower, I can hear those consultants snickering. That’s because the media may not be able to tell us what to think, but it can play a significant role in what we think about.

    On that score, USAToday gets a “D” from me.

  3. Great post! I took the test and also came up with Kucinich, though as a close second to Dodd. I was also disappointed that there were not questions about rolling back executive branch powers, fiscal responsibility, taxes, and tighter reins on security contractors. I have a feeling my stance on those issues would only push me further to the left, but it would be nice to see the candidates squirm over the tougher issues.

  4. But it’s so folksy and friendly… how can you resist?

    “Golly, seems like everyone’s running for President, Andy!”

    “I know, Barn. Us poor dumb voters just got to do the best we can, I reckon.”

  5. Actually, this sounds like a good way to get kids interested in voting.

    Last few elections, I actually took my son, now 12, into the voting booth. He pushes down the levers.

    Last November though, we had a disagreement. Eliot Spitzer was running for governor of New York. I was okay with him, but because he was guaranteed victory I wanted to throw a third-party candidate a vote.

    But my son insisted on Spitzer and I let him have his way. I’m creating a monster. (Which is what he thinks Bush is, incidentally.)

  6. Bad news first: this is every bit as stupid as you (and our esteemed commenters) suggest.

    Good news: it’s a big improvement over how most people seem to make their choices.