I’m always fascinated by the types of things that we expect our computers and the Internet to be able to do for us. We shop online. We talk online. We date online. We research online. We bank online. We blog online. We spend more time in Internet social networks than we do pressing the flesh in the “real world.” When we have questions, we pop in to Wikipedia to check on the great group mind there. When we encounter something new, we Google it. Someone or someplace online can answer any question we can pose, from the most mundane to the most profound.
Take the 2008 Presidential election. There are no shortage of websites sprouting up online that will quickly and painlessly tell you which candidates will best represent your interests should you choose to vote for them. You don’t have to get into all the messy details of platforms and politics, you just have to answer a few easy questions about, say, the War in Iraq, reproductive rights, immigrants, health care reform and medical marijuana and, hey presto, you’ve got a candidate!
Only problem is, which poll do you trust and believe? I went and took the first dozen spit back at me after a simple Yahoo search, and got the following spectrum of results (three highest ranked candidates for me listed in order from first to third):
WQAD: Dodd, Gravel, Paul
VAJoe: Kucinich, Gravel, Obama
Minnesota Public Radio: Kucinich, Dodd, Gravel
Speak Out: Obama, Clinton, Edwards
Go To Quiz: Clinton, Dodd, Obama
ABC News: Huckabee, Tancredo, Biden
Glassbooth: Dodd, Obama, Richardson
2decide/DEHP: Kucinich, Gravel, Obama
USA Today: Huckabee, Tancredo, Giuliani
SelectSmart: Obama, Kucinich, Dodd
PidgeonTech: Dodd, Paul, Edwards
Poli-Talk: Richardson, Kucinich, Biden
So . . . if I go with the first choice each calculator gave me, then that’s three voted for Dodd, three for Kucinich, two for Huckabee, two for Obama, and a Richardson and a Clinton thrown in for good measure. That’s kind of a broad range, isn’t it? Is it odd that the two most likely taken quizzes (ABC News and USA Today) gave me far more conservative choices than any other poll? What do I make of that? What do you make of that? Who’s skewing who?
If I weight the top three (three points for first, two for second, one for third) and go with a consolidated “poll of polls,” then here’s what I end up with:
Dodd: 14 points
Kucinich: 13 points
Obama: 11 points
Gravel: 7 points
Huckabee: 6 points
Clinton: 5 points
Richardson and Tancredo (tie): 4 points
Paul: 3 points
Edwards and Biden (tie): 2 points
Giuliani: 1 point
That’s a little closer to my general leanings and thoughts on the campaign, but still an odd combination of candidates. So I think that this is one case where I’ll be much better off getting into the details of guts of the decision that needs to made, and leave the Internet quiz makers to help me figure out less important things. I hope you all will do the same.