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Civic Engagement and Voting: Research

This guide shares resources and strategies for learning about socio political issues in order to vote or otherwise participate in civic discourse. It also details local resources for getting involved as well at UNLV and local events.

Research

The three main parts when research who and what to vote for are discussing the challenges when it comes to conducting research on issues and candidates, reflecting on where your beliefs fit in with the political discourse, and identifying tools and strategies that will help you get informed! 

 

Step 1 - Reflect

The first step when preparing to research is to reflect on your viewpoints and biases. Reflecting on what you find to be most important will allow you to better determine where you fall on the political spectrum. The topics below are all great places to start when reflecting.

  • Values you grew up with
  • Issues and subjects that you are drawn to
  • Your positionality 

Below are a few websites that you can visit to see which political parties your values align most closely with. 

  • Pew Research Center - The Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes, and trends shaping the world.
  • ISideWith - ISideWith is another great nonpartisan source to check out. ISideWith offers information about current political issues, elections, and candidates. 
  • Accredited Schools Online - Accredited Schools Online has put out an amazing first-time voter guide that includes information about voter demographics, voting facts versus myths, and a great political affiliation quiz.

After reflecting on your values and using them to take the political typography assessments, you will be able to better understand which political candidates and issues to vote for based on what is important to you. 

Step 2 - Seek

After reflecting to understand where you fall on the political spectrum, the next step is to seek out information that allows you to make informed decisions. Below is a list of websites that you can check out to stay up to date on the validity of the information that you are presented within the media. 

  • AllSides is a recourse that aggregates stories from other news sources and then decides if it has a slight left or right bias, or is it could be considered propaganda. This resource is helpful to use when you are feeling overwhelmed by a particular news story. 
  • Congress.gov is a great resource to check the voting history of any candidate that is currently in office. By seeing how they vote, you can better understand the values of the candidates and how they typically serve in office. 
  • Factcheck.org is a project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center and is a nonpartisan, nonprofit "consumer advocate" project. Their goal is to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. Politics by monitoring the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the forms of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews, and new releases. 

Step 3 - Empathize

In addition to reflecting on your values and seeking out credible information, it is also important to empathy in the sense that these political issues will impact real people. Take your time researching issues and understanding their potential impact.

Some perspectives need to be sought out more than others as perspectives of dominant communities are shared more frequently and given more weight. When this is the case, we should be thinking about whose perspective we don't have access to as frequently. For example, if you are straight and there is legislation on the table that affects the LGBTQIA+ community, it is important to seek out those perspectives on that legislation. Additionally, if you are a member of a marginalized community, it is important to ensure that you are practicing self-care when seeking other perspectives as you may run into harmful language about your communities. 

This practice is particularly important for individuals who belong to dominant communities. If during your reflection you realize that you spend most of your time interacting with perspectives that validate your own, make significant efforts to reach out to people in other communities in order to learn about their perspectives. This can look like

  • Reaching out to folks in the community in good faith
  • Scrolling through Twitter of forums where members of a community might feel more comfortable sharing their perspectives in a way that doesn't place the burden on them to describe their life experiences on a regular basis
  • Reading to gain insight into the lives of others

Empathizing is something everyone must incorporate into their research structure for politics. As the votes, we cast impact everyone in our country so we want to make sure we are considering all of those perspectives. 

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