Six Questions: Cutting Through the Many Messages

During a campaign, citizens face a blizzard of messages making a variety of appeals (emotion, logic, personal self interest, fear,...) coming at them from variety of sources (a conversation with a neighbor, a nightly newscast, a campaign or interest group ad,...).  To cut through the clutter and make an informed opinion, consider these questions:

  • What is the ultimate source of the information?
Someone in or affiliated with one of the campaigns;
An interest group;
An expert, a think tank, government statistics;
A pundit expressing an opinion;
An ordinary citizen or voter expressing an opinion...

  • Is the source credible and the information believable and complete?
When considering information from a partisan source or advocacy group, one must be extremely careful.  The  facts cited may be true, but present only part of the picture.

  • Is this information relevant?
A lot of charges fly hither and yon during a political campaign.  One needs to ask not only if a specific charge is true, but also whether it affects a candidate's capacity to set a direction, implement policies, respond to difficult situations and do the job well.

  • What are other, opposing sources saying about the subject?
Seeking out three or four different points of view is a good way to clarify one's own thinking on an issue.  Look beyond familiar news and information sources.

  • Is there some aspect of the debate that is not being represented?
The campaigns may not be addressing some of the more difficult issues, and the media do have have blind spots.

  • What do I think?
Do you have enough information to form an informed opinion?  Difficult problems usually do not lend themselves to quick solutions.  The various approaches put forth probably each have some merit.  Which approach or combination of approaches do you think is best, and why?