Informed voting can help prevent bad politics

Last updated: 02/16/14 4:38pm


When people try to pay attention to politics, they are often put off by the arguments that seem to go nowhere, the problems that never seem to get fixed and the steady stream of contradictory information coming from both sides.

Most people have things they would much rather do than watch the political grass grow. Millions of people who have paid little to no attention make their ways to the voting booths on Election Day.

Just Facts, a nonprofit research and educational institute, commissioned a 20 question nationwide poll of people who claimed to vote “every time there is an opportunity,” or in “most elections.” The poll posed questions regarding the national debt, taxes, health care, hunger, global warming, pollution, energy and Social Security. On average, voters answered only 39 percent of the questions correctly.

Voters were asked, “On average who would you say pays a greater portion of their income in federal taxes: The middle-class or the upper 1 percent of income earners?” Only 18 percent of voters questioned gave the correct answer.

Uninformed voting can lead to the election of unfit politicians, the passage of faulty legislation and the overall deterioration society. For these reasons, people should make more of an effort to be informed before elections.

Keeping up with politics can be difficult, boring and time consuming. There are more ways than ever to keep up.

A good way to start is by paying attention to a variety of different news sources. Most news sources have some political bias and provide different news to target different audiences. Although it is best to try and find objective sources, people tend to pay attention to news sources that support their own beliefs, so they receive information that only serves to support one side of an argument or issue. Paying attention to multiple news sources can remedy this by exposing people to different points of view. Some accessible news sources with different biases include websites such as cnn.com, foxnews.com and msnbc.com. Sources that are considered to be more objective include
Quartz magazine, Wired magazine, and The New York Times.

Another good way to start becoming informed is to check your facts. People often receive information and accept it as fact without ever questioning the source. This can cause the spread of false information. With an abundance of data available on the Internet, fact checking is easier than most people think. Although fact checking is more trustworthy when done first hand, there are also websites such as politifact.com and factcheck.org that are constantly checking facts on politicians for people who don’t have the time to do it themselves.

Finally, it is also a good idea for likely voters to know who their representatives are in local, state and federal government. This can be a daunting task, but it is easiest to start paying attention at the local level where politics are more personal and politicians are easier to get in contact with.
Local politics can also be more interesting for people because it effects them more directly, and it is much easier to get involved and make a difference.

November may seem a long ways off, but the time to start preparing for upcoming election season was yesterday. Informed voting prevents the election of unfit politicians, the passage of faulty legislation and the overall degradation of society. If people plan to vote, then they should get informed first so that they can make better decisions, spread informed ideas arguments and improve the world around them.

Published Feb 16, 2014 in Opinions

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