Wired’s picked up on a new application called Glassbooth that helps match you with the presidential candidate whose positions are closest to yours. In clever fashion, it starts by asking which issues are most important to you and only then goes into specific questions about those issues. The quiz was easy to take, and the questions seemed reasonable, i.e., they generally seemed like neutral ways to state the issues. The site creators base their matches on the candidates’ officially stated positions, which as Wired reporter James Lee notes is no small feat considering most politicians’ reluctance to take definitive stands.
The problem I have with the application is that while it’s fun, this isn’t the way people pick candidates: despite their frequent protestations to the contrary, most people make snap decisions about politicians based on gut feelings rather than reasoned analysis (how many of the people who say they want to know more about where the candidates stand actually go to their websites to find out?). In my case, I turn out to agree with 1) Dennis Kucinich, 2) Mike Gravel and 3) Bill Richardson, who must have strong positions on environmental and civil liberties issues, both of which I listed high. Thing is, I’d never actually support these guys, because they lack other qualities that I rank more highly than their stand on these issues. For better or worse, we pick professional politicians in pretty much the same way we pick friends from elementary school on whether we think we “click” with them or not.