By Anna Lynn Spitzer
Irvine, Calif., Oct. 16, 2007 -- Confused by the numerous candidates and myriad issues competing for attention in the current presidential race?
A new Web site might help. MyElectionDecision.org, created by researchers at Wisconsin’s Lawrence University in partnership with UC Irvine and Calit2, assists perplexed voters by matching their views to candidates’ positions on a number of national topics. Web site users complete an interactive questionnaire that ranks statements describing views on energy, Iraq, immigration, health care and economic issues.
The site compares their positions with those of the candidates, matching the user with the candidate whose views most closely reflect his/her own. The site also includes a discussion forum for those interested in more discourse.
Developers hope the site will engage voters – particularly college students – encouraging them to get involved in the political process and participate in informed debate.
“By considering the candidates’ own statements on the issues, without regard to their appearance, personality, fundraising ability or the news media’s interpretation or bias, MyElectionDecision.org strips away many of the factors that have soured people on the political process,” Jill Beck, Lawrence University president, told the Appleton Post-Crescent in Wisconsin last week.
“Instead, it focuses on providing the user with factual information that leads to informed decision-making,” she said.
MyElectionDecision.org is a politically neutral site, without sponsors or endorsements. It currently contains data about the four leading Democratic candidates (Clinton, Obama, Edwards and Richardson) and the four leading Republicans (Giuliani, Romney, McCain and Thompson). As candidates issue new statements or change position, the site is updated, and when the primaries are over, it will reflect the views of each party’s final candidate.
“There is a lot of student apathy concerning the political process,” said Rob Beck, a Calit2@UCI researcher and one of the site’s creators. “We are trying to counter this indifference by reaching out to them online.”
Beck, a visiting professor at Lawrence University and professor emeritus at UCI, was aided in the project by UCI researchers. Richard Matthew, associate professor in the School of Social Ecology, helped plan the site and political science graduate student Ted Gaulin summarized the candidates’ positions from their campaign web sites.
The site, which was funded by Calit2, has been in development for approximately six months and was featured this week on National Public Radio.
Students appear to be responding. MyElectionDecision.org got 500 hits its first week.
“We have gotten some emails from students thanking us for the resource,” said Rob Beck. “One student wrote: ‘It helped me finally to dig through the confusion from the media and find which presidential hopeful I identify most with. What a relief!’"
To listen to NPR report, click here.