Friday, September 26, 2008

Political Databases

eToday I had the opportunity to go through these amazing sites, learn about them and compare them. First of all I think it is important to mention that these are terrific tools that allow common citizens to be informed about what politicians are doing, to have an opinion based in these facts and also be able to check whether they are indeed keeping their promises or not.
On the other hand there are factors that distinguish one among the other, so I’ll begin to point out a few I noticed.

I will start with US Congress Votes Database, that allows anyone browse every vote in the US Congress. I think it is the most organized and easiest to browse among the four we are going to analyze today. It has a well distributed and organized data base, which is taken from the Official Congress website and it is updated several times a day.

The search of any particular case is easy since you are able to look for it depending on any information you have about it, for instance you can look for a particular congress or member. You can also explore votes by margin, session or members.

You’ll find also the complete biography about Congress members.

It is does not have an appealing design, but it does not look bad for its purpose either.
These are incredible examples of what internet can do for common citizens that probably would not access this information otherwise and I believe it will be very useful in my country for instance, since citizens don’t trust their political representatives but have no way to check the facts themselves.

The following site is called Fact Check, a tool to monitor what major US politicians say. The site take their statements given through speeches, commercial ads and different media and check whether what they say it’s true or not, something very similar to Politifact, another site will analyze further in this blog.

The thing I like the most about this site are their weekly wires, the introduce a video one a week, with a summary of answers for the questions that readers have asked, the latest fact checks on candidate’s latest statements and campaigns.

I don’t like the fact that to check a piece of information you are interested in you have to know the month in which the statement or event took place and you have no other way to search it.

The third is the one I like the most:, a well rounded site that checks candidates’ statements in a very entertaining but also serious way. Besides being very appealing visually, they also make available a lot of video material of candidates commercial ads and speeches.

The thing that I like the most about it though is the same thing that concerns me the most. The truthfulness of the statements is measured by the site’s “rulings”. The statements by rulings from the “Truth O Meter” go from false, to barely true, to half true, etc. On one hand this in an intelligent evaluation since it is very difficult to determine when a statement is entirely false or true, it could be taken as a biased point of view of the journalist that analyses the statement. They are presented with weight images, which makes it visually attractive.

On the other hand, the “truth o Meter” appears as biased. Who decides that something is “partly true” or just “true”? The meaning of the two concepts is very different.

Finally we have the Projectvotesmart site. The most outstanding fact is that this is the only one that actually has political blogs that allows one to post comments in it which is obviously an extra point for the site. The information one finds in the site goes from campaign finances to information for voters, very instructive and easy to follow.

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