Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Political Sites for Skeptics, Part 2

I forgot a few key resources in my previous post about neutral and/or skeptical political sites. So, without further ado...

Two of these sites are On The Issues and ProCon.org. These resources list the political stances of politicians and commentators in a simple and straightforward way. To do so, they use their legislative voting record as well as direct quotations from speeches and books. Here are On The Issues' pages for ObamaBiden, Romney, his newly-selected VP candidate Paul Ryan, and the main third-party candidate, libertarian Gary JohnsonProCon compares six presidential candidates' answers to 61 questions in this handy chart. (They also have some good, even-handed information on other controversial issues at their main page.)

Then there are the "transparency" sources. Most people lump politicians in with the likes of lawyers and used car salesmen in terms of honesty and integrity, but it's often hard to know exactly where their loyalties lie. OpenSecrets goes a long way toward solving that problem by posting detailed information about what special interest groups are donating to whom—for example, SOPA author Lamar Smith's media-based donors. Their side-by-side comparison of the two presidential candidates is also quite nice. GovTrack is useful for keeping track of the voting records of various legislators—Paul Ryan's, for instance. MapLight is another potentially useful site that combines the latter two.

Finally—and I have no idea how I could forget this one—there's Snopes. Sure, they tackle every subject under the sun, but they have a specific page dedicated to politics, and even separate subsections for Obama and Romney. There are a ton of rumors about Obama that have bubbled up over the past five or so years, and the vast majority of the ones tackled here are exposed for the sensationalist nonsense they are. Barbara and David Mikkelson do a great job researching and running the site, and their work in these areas mainly serve to highlight how immensely unreliable political chain emails tend to be.

Politics today is so vicious and partisan that finding reliable, neutral information is nearly impossible. It's hard for me to form opinions when so many sources present their information through the lens of their personal worldviews. With the help of the sites I've covered here, though, I feel like I have a fighting chance of distinguishing vested narrative from objective truth.