Matching up with a presidential candidate not so easy
Apparently, I’m going to have to think for myself.
When it comes to the race for president, I was hoping there would be an easy way to make my choice among the candidates.
So I was eager to check out three sites on the Internet that offer to make my choice for me. The sites are presidentmatch.com, iVillage.com and selectsmart.com.
Here’s how they work: I make my way through a questionnaire on a variety of national issues, marking where I agree or disagree and how strongly I feel about the issues.
At the conclusion, they tell me which candidate most closely matches my views.
On presidentmatch.com – which is put together by America Online and CBS News – there are a dozen issues: abortion, individual rights, school prayer, flag burning, gun control and so on.
As I was marking my responses, I was vaguely aware that the issues seemed to be on the conservative side. Nothing about the environment, for example, which is one area that I think the federal government needs to be involved.
Nevertheless, nothing prepared me for the surprise when it tallied my answers and matched me with … Gary Bauer.
I hadn’t even considered voting for Gary Bauer. I barely knew who Gary Bauer was, except that he was conservative, worked in the Reagan administration and was from Virginia.
But there he was, matching 59 percent of my responses, according to the survey.
I was equally surprised by the fact that it showed my first five matches to be Republicans – Bauer, followed by Alan Keyes (58 percent), George Bush (56 percent), John McCain (52 percent) and Steve Forbes (50 percent).
The Democrats were dead last on my personal match list – Bill Bradley at 44 percent and Al Gore at 43 percent.
I guess I’m a lot more conservative than I thought. I do tend to think the federal government has far too much influence in our lives, so that colors my answers.
And I’m fiscally conservative, so my answers on taxes and spending probably put me in the Republicans’ column. But I think I’m pretty left-leaning on social issues, so I figured Bradley and Gore would finish somewhere in the top five.
Presidentmatch.com allows you to indicate whether you like the Democratic Party over the GOP, or vice versa. I left that one blank.
It also asks whether you think prior elected office is a prerequisite for a president, and I said no. Had I answered yes, Bauer and Keyes – my top two matches – would have been eliminated.
Next I moved to iVillage, a Web site aimed primarily at women. (The banner ads are for maternity clothes and diapers.)
There are more issues here, and the responses are written out in complete thoughts, so it’s not just a matter of “support” or “oppose” gun control, for example.
The iVillage questionnaire includes education reform, capital punishment, assisted suicide, environment and a few others not on the presidentmatch.com site.
My match at the end of this survey? Orrin Hatch.
Now I began to really worry that I was totally out of touch with my own political beliefs. I knew plenty about Hatch, and I not only wouldn’t vote for him, I’d probably end up in a knock-down, drag-out argument if we were to meet on the street.
At least, that was my impression before I let iVillage do my thinking for me.
The odd thing about this survey was that I agreed with Hatch on only 50 percent of the issues, yet he was my top match. Bush came in at 40 percent, McCain, Forbes and Gore at 35 percent and Bauer and Keys at 30 percent.
Bill Bradley was last at 25 percent.
The only conclusion I could reach so far was that I apparently don’t agree with any of the candidates on very much of anything.
I was disappointed in Bradley’s showing on both surveys so far. I had read an article about Bradley’s campaign this week, and I was starting to think he made a lot of sense.
So I turned to the third site, selectsmart.com, and took the survey. It is the least detailed, simply asking you to gauge your support or opposition on about 17 issues. It was the only one to ask where I stand on teaching evolution vs. creationism.
Guess what? Yup, this time Bill Bradley came out as my presidential match, with 64 percent. Al Gore was second, at 56 percent, followed by McCain (48 percent), Bush (47), Forbes (45), Bauer (43) and Keyes (33).
The list was nearly upside-down from the first survey I took. Thank goodness Donald Trump came out at 31 percent (this was the only survey that included him as a candidate.)
I don’t know how to explain the differences. One explanation would be that somebody is intentionally trying to sway voters by manipulating the results. Another would be that stances on issues are more complicated than a simple poll could measure.
A third explanation would be that I don’t know what the hell I think. This is entirely possible, as a co-worker, Amanda Hammon, took the surveys and came out with the same candidate match on all three.
The best part of the surveys, though, is how they forced me to think about and give a response to about 30 major issues of the day. Some of them – especially on the iVillage site – gave me pause.
And when it does come time for me to walk into the polling booth, I guess it’s clear that I’m going to have to think for myself after all.
Barry Smith is managing editor of the Nevada Appeal.