Voters need to study candidates, positions to make an informed decision in November

All too often, people vote for the president based on a candidate’s popularity or which party they think they prefer. Voters need to be more informed when deciding which name they want to check on their ballot.

When deciding on a presidential candidate, voters should sift through the rumors to learn what a candidate’s positions actually are.

The most essential way to uncover the beliefs and ideologies is quite simply to read and watch the news, but it has to be done with a critical eye. Try as journalists may, a single news source is not without its bias.

Not only that, but media companies may be intentionally selective of the way they cover a candidate, highlighting information about a candidate unnecessary to a voter at the polls, be it a misinterpreted quote or some other gaffe. If a story contains a candidate’s latest gaffe, or even contains the word for that matter, avoid it because the information will do nothing but detract from what’s important — the issues.

Unfortunately, most major news sources ignore third-party candidates, who may be on the ballot in several states, and a may be a better choice for voters’ interests.

Even if news were flawless in its reporting, reading every single story about every single candidate daily is unrealistic. News sites post weekly review stories, giving updates on recent developments in minimal time and space.

Pundits’ opinions can be a useful starting point when forming thoughts on an issue, but the best approach is to seek out the candidates’ actions and words directly from them by visiting their campaign sites or watching videos of their talks and speeches. Admittedly, these sites will not tell you negative aspects about the candidate — for that, you should circle back to the news sites and television stations.

Presidential debates, though they only involve the most popular candidates, are a great way to do side-by-side comparisons. Unfortunately, debates can also become a forum for mud-slinging. So much of a campaign in the months before Election Day focuses on the name-calling, making it difficult to sift through fact and fiction. Continuing to question candidates’ statements through sites like FactChecker.org or PolitiFact.

One of the best ways to find a candidate is to pick the five issues that are most important to you, list your opinion on them, and find which candidate’s views best match up with yours. For example Votesmart.org offers a quiz that allows you to select your view on an issue and rank how important that issue is to you. Then it will then tell you which candidate best lines up with your stances. One of the best things about Votesmart is that it includes third-party candidates who aren’t often covered in the media.

Informed voters must be active in collecting information about candidates. By properly researching the candidates, the people can elect a leader that best meets their needs.