Are Voters Getting Accurate Information?

Each One Teach One Project:  Part 1

Background:

My biggest concern with how new technology is affecting our society is the inaccurate and misleading information about U.S. presidential candidates and their running mates. While the internet allows us access to more information about the candidates and their campaigns than mainstream radio, television and newspapers have offered, some of the information may cause voters to make ill-informed decisions about who our country’s next leader should be.

While bloggers sometimes have uncovered very accurate information overlooked by the mainstream media, such as Dan Rather’s inaccurate reporting about President Bush’s National Guard service, there are many other examples of confusing, inaccurate information about politicians. Examples range from whether or not U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama is a Muslim who associates with terrorists to whether John McCain’s running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s baby Trig, is really her daughter Bristol’s child. While some believe Obama wasn’t born in the United States, there are others who have spread rumors saying McCain wasn’t born in the United States either.

Some inaccurate information also concerns the candidates’ proposals for healthcare reform, taxes and gun control. Some sources believe Obama would unfairly tax small businesses and take away Americans right to own a gun, while others believe McCain’s healthcare plan will threaten existing workplace health insurance plans.

My Five Biggest Fears:

  1. Voters will make uniformed decisions based on fear and emotion, rather than fact
  2. Candidates will try even harder to cover up past mistakes in hopes they won’t be “found out”
  3. Voters will shy away from voting on real issues such as the economy, the environment and international relations, and will dwell on less relevant issues, such as a candidate’s family life
  4. Voters will become even more untrusting of candidates than they already are
  5. Our country will become divided and polarized than it already is

Websites Dealing with This Problem:

  1. Obama Crimes: First of all, I can’t find an “About” or “About Us” link on this website. The site appears to be written by Philip J. Berg, Esquire, of Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania, about alleged “crimes” committed by Barack Obama. I Googled Berg’s name, and found that he’s filed a lawsuit in federal court, asserting that Obama is not a natural born citizen of the United States and is therefore not qualified to be President. Berg goes on to say that Obama lost his citizenship when he was adopted in Indonesia. As “evidence,” Berg claims Obama’s birth certificate has been altered and doesn’t contain an embossed seal. Berg has filed a lawsuit against Obama. The case has been dismissed by the U.S. Supreme Court, but Berg is appealing the decision. Clicking through various pages on the website, I can’t find where Berg is getting his information. I searched Berg’s name some more. I learned that he’s a former Democratic operative who strongly supported Hillary Clinton in the primaries and have to wonder if he is still angry that Clinton didn’t get the nomination.
  2. Babble: At least there is an “About Us” section, listing photos, names and backgrounds of the site’s editors and writers. The site claims to be a resource for new parents, and it may indeed be. One of the articles, however, concerns Bristol Palin’s pregnancy and alleges that Governor Palin’s fifth child, Trig, is really her daughter Bristol’s and that Bristol is pregnant for a second time. The author posts a photo of Governor Palin when she was supposedly seven months pregnant but doesn’t look pregnant. There is also a photo of her when she is obviously pregnant and the author says it was an earlier pregnancy, but we don’t have a date. Here’s another photo of the Governor that was supposedly taken last winter. She’s obviously pregnant in this one, but here again, how do we know when it was taken?
  3. American Power This blog clearly states that it comes from a “neoconservative perspective.” It’s difficult for me to place any credibility in a site that describes itself as “neoconservative” any more than a site that claims to be “far left.” The blog’s author, Donald Douglas, says he despises the far-left agenda and cites information regarding Obama’s alleged associations with 1960s radical William Ayers. The blog doesn’t state anything more than the facts that Ayers and Obama live in the same neighborhood, have served together on boards, The blog points to a link from reporter Ben Smith of Politco. However, when I go to the Politico site, I can’t find the article – just today’s news on Politico. An in-depth search yields little more results. Nowhere does this blog show me that William Ayers has been anything more than an acquaintance to Obama.  Updated info – I’ve responded to Professor Douglas’ comments below and cited a link from FactCheck.org regarding whether or not Obama and Ayers are pals.
  4. YouTube – This site is a YouTube video of an ad by the Obama campaign, alleging that McCain’s $5,000 tax credit allowing people to purchase health insurance, will actually go to the health insurance companies rather than the taxpayers. As the ad says, McCain’s website does say this. However, this line of attack doesn’t really work for those of us who already have health insurance.
  5. Expose Obama – These bloggers describe themselves as concerned conservatives who believe Obama would be the worst president ever, and is just a “more stylish Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson.” According to their “About Us” page, they have worked in various political campaigns through the years, but there are no references to which campaigns.
  6. Momcrats – This site is called “Momcrats,” but I can’t find anything that really tells me who the authors are. Maybe they are mothers who are Democrats? Hard to tell. They lash out at Sarah Palin for cutting funding for special needs children. According to factcheck.org, Palin actually increased funding for this group. There are commenter’s on the Momcrats site who say the same thing.

Possible Solutions to the Problem:

There are several solutions to the problem of misinformation about the candidates. First, get the facts. One very good site to get unbiased, factual information is FactCheck. Ran by the Annenberg School of Public Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, FactCheck monitors the accuracy of television and radio ads, press releases, speeches, interviews and debates, in an attempt to provide voters with unbiased, factual information. Regarding Senator Obama’s birth certificate FactCheck staffers have seen, touched, examined and photographed the birth certificate and believe it to be authentic. Some have also believed that Senator McCain is not a U.S. citizen because he was born on a military base in Panama, but FactCheck has verified that he is a citizen also. FactCheck also monitors the candidates’ policies on education, healthcare and numerous other issues, sorting out fact from rumor.

Another site that seeks to dispel rumors is Snopes.com This site contains some links verifying Obama’s birth certificate information. There are also a variety of other links regarding Obama, Palin, McCain and various other politicians. Snopes has a color-coded system indicating whether the rumor is true, false, contains multiple grains of truth or is undetermined.

One mainstream news sources that has a Fact Check section is CNN. The site contains a fact check on a variety of issues involving both candidates. For instance, the tax calculator on Obama’s website is “true but incomplete.” The calculator gives generally accurate calculations on tax decreases some people may get under Obama’s plan, but doesn’t give any indication of increases that some taxpayers may be hit with.

Obama’s campaign has also created a new website called Fight the Smears. This site seeks to dispel rumors about Obama’s citizenship, religion, alliances with terrorists and a number of other issues. In some cases, Fight the Smears refers readers to FactCheck or a mainstream news sources, such as the Chicago Tribune or New York Times. In other instances, Obama himself says the allegations are untrue.

None of these sites are 100 percent reliable and no candidate is perfect.  The candidates themselves sometimes spout erroneous information about each other in order to get votes.  However, voters will be better informed and better satisfied by taking time to research as many facts as possible. Doing so will enable them to vote for a candidate with positions and beliefs that closely match their own.

 

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6 Comments

Filed under politics

6 responses to “Are Voters Getting Accurate Information?

  1. sfokc6125

    Has anyone looked into the LA tape as a matter for Homeland Security ? Seeing Obamais running for the top of the chain of command it only reasons that you look into any associations with known terrorists. We cant have a terrorist loving President. Unless he has something to hide where is the hard. Wait its the hard question again. the DNC says run a way.
    Under the Patriot Act they don’t have to give it to GOP but they do have to turn it in to Homeland Security .
    email your congressman NOW put the word out to all that will listen.

  2. “Nowhere does this blog show me that William Ayers has been anything more than an acquaintance to Obama.”

    That’s not anywhere near an accurate summary of my blog, and you criticize me for a link – to Politico – that’s included in quote I cite from another author, not my own commentary.

    Your conclusion of Ayers as “just an aquaintance” of Obama is your opinion, not a breakdown of the facts cited at my page.

    You should be more careful, considering you’re writing an essay about getting “Accurate Information..”

  3. bdishman

    Americanneocon, thank you for your response. You are entitled to your thoughts and to your blog. I’ll research the Politico article a bit more – maybe I overlooked something. However, you might want to take a look at this link – http://www.factcheck.org/elections-2008/taking_liberties_in_philadelphia.html
    This is from FactCheck.org. – I think the Politico article is mentioned near the end of this page. There is no evidence to suggest that Obama and Ayers have a close relationship.

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  5. My comments may be a bit past their due date considering that the election is (finally) over, but I still wanted to give credit to this author for her well-researched blog post, on which she has “vetted” several websites that offer information on the candidates. In her post, she takes great care to mention that when unsubstantiated rumors are spread via the Internet, it has the very harmful potential of causing voters to cast their votes based on fear rather than as informed responses to the candidates’ stances on issues that concern our society. She also gives important advice to always carefully check the source of the information posted on a website, including the “About Us” page which tells about the authors. On my own blog, Healthy Habits, I wrote a post about health literacy, and how consumers should carefully examine the credibility of the websites that they visit for health information. I provide links to several sources, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the New York Times, which provide tips to consumers on how to determine if a health website is credible, and they gave the same advice that this author of this blog does–always check the source of the information. If this is information is not readily available on the website, not present, or the information there is sketchy, then perhaps that site is not the most trustful source of information.

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