Overview of Topic
For Additional Research
Discussion Group

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Search Topic 27:

Comparing Presidential Candidates

Web Search Guides

by Joseph Ryan, Editor

I. Overview of Topic

Naturally, it's important that you vote in the upcoming 2008 U.S. presidential election but it's even more important that you cast an informed vote. This means comparing presidential candidates in terms of issues and policy proposals -- something which, fortunately, is easy and simple to accomplish on the Web, if you know the best sites.

We can at least hope that, this time around, the Internet will loosen somewhat TV's decades-old stranglehold on the public consciousness where voting is concerned. After all, do we really want the next president to be the guy or lady who makes the best TV impression during debates, Sunday morning talk shows, and randomly-reported sound bites?

Of course not - when comparing presidential candidates, it's the candidate's stand on issues that's really most important to us. But at the same time, keeping each of more than ten candidates' positions on issues straight can be like trying to juggle three balls while balancing a banana on your nose - especially since some of them have a tendency to change their position on certain issues in mid-campaign.

TV is great to get a sense of the "presidential-ness" of the candidates and a feel for their leadership qualities and perhaps even personal character. But it's not so great when you need to figure out exactly where each one stands on the major issues of the day vis-a-vis the other candidates. This is where the Internet can help, and it does the job quite well.

First, Take a Quiz

To start, check out your present knowledge of the candidates' positions with this brief quiz --

On a piece of paper or word processor record what you think are the positions of some or all of the following candidates on each of several issues, then click here for the answers, based on an "Issues Grid" prepared by

Suggested Candidates: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, John Edwards, John McCain, Fred Thompson, Mike Huckabee

For each candidate, indicate "for," "against," "strongly for," or "strongly against" for each of the following issues:

  1. No Child Left Behind Act
  2. Minimum Wage
  3. Iraq War Withdrawal
  4. Affirmative Action
  5. Universal Health Care
  6. Legalized Abortion
  7. Same Sex Marriage
  8. Free Trade
  9. Social Security Reform

How'd you do? If you're like most people, you didn't do too well, but this is certainly information you need to familiarize yourself with before casting your vote.

Of course, you need not agree with the Issues Grid. For example, the Issue Grid's representation of Clinton's and Edward's positions on "Social Security Reform." as "strongly against" seems to me anyway to need some clarification. (You can click on the issues in the left column for elaboration.) So I suggest that you review this Issues Grid with some caution and look also at some of the other Internet resources discussed below.

NY Times' Election Guide 2008

One of the most thorough and objective Internet sites for comparing presidential candidates is that of the NY Times. (A NY Times Online subscription isn't needed to access the material.) On the first page you get the following info on each candidate:

  • Topic Page - (Biography, Books he/she authored; Books about him/her; Selected NY Times articles on candidate (e.g., there are almost 4000 listed on Clinton).
  • Blog Posts from the Times' Politics Blog
  • Profile of the candidate

On the left sidebar, refer to the heading "ISSUES." Presently the issues covered are: Abortion, Climate Change, Health Care, Immigration, Iran, and Iraq. When you click on an issue you go to a page providing a general briefing on the issue, then specific position quotes on the issue from each candidate.

Obviously all of the above can take you hours, maybe days, to plow through, unless you target specific info. If you're looking for quicker, easier overviews as a basis for comparing presidential candidates, try the following comparison tool.

Candidate-by-Candidate Comparison Tool

WCVB-TV in Boston has developed this "Compare the Candidates" site, and it's so good it may be all you need - at least, for making your initial decision. Scroll down the page and select two candidates, one on the left side of the page and a second on the right. Let's say we pick Clinton and Giuliani. Presto, there are their color photos, a link to their bios, and their policy positions (as construed by WCVB, anyway) on Iraq, Foreign Affairs, Homeland Security, Immigration, Economy, Education, Energy, Climate Change, Health, Social Security, Stem Cell Research, Same Sex Marriage, Abortion, and Gun Control.

It looks like WCVB thought of everything... except Iran. Guess they didn't think Iran is that important. In any case, below are several additional sites for comparing presidential candidates -- some of which have very interesting and entertaining approaches.

Other Presidential Candidate Comparison Sites

  • My Election Choices This site turns "comparing presidential candidates" into a game - an entertaining one, too. Start by clicking on the issues that will influence who you will vote for (Abortion, Health Care, Immigration, etc), then on the next page view a list of public statements by each candidate on each issue you selected. Now click on those statements you agree with. Finally, click "submit." Based on your choices your results will be tabulated and you'll be told how closely your views agree with the various candidates (on a percentage basis and even graphically).
  • Here's another Issues Grid - this one extremely detailed.
  • Presents campaign statements by the candidates representing their positions on major issues
  • Pew Foundation on Religion & Public Life Click "On the Issues" for detailed representations of candidates' positions
  • Presidential Candidates and U.S. Foreign Policy A resources list providing links to web pages detailing each candidate's foreign policy positions

That's it - our ten minutes are up! (OK, maybe twelve or thirteen if you're a slow reader.) Below is a listing of Web resources to help you continue your research on comparing presidential candidates.

II. For Additional Research

This Section provides reviews and recommendations of Web sites and other online resources

Yahoo's Candidate Mashup

Here's something new, an online "debate" you can set up yourself between presidential candidates of your choosing. Click on your selected candidates then on the issues that interest you most. Next, view videos in which your chosen candidates discuss the selected issues. Finally, vote on who you think won your debate. Thus the "Candidate Mashup" is actually a "Candidate Matchup." Anyway, kinda fun.

Election Jokes After all the serious research (above) a lighter note may be welcome. Take a few minutes for some election jokes - all the major candidates are fair game - some of the jokes are pretty hilarious.

Recommended Reading


III.Discussion Group


Have questions or thoughts to share regarding comparing presidential candidates? Visit our Web Search Guides Discussion Group.

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