Students Must Follow Election, Take Caution

During election season, it seems as though coverage of the election is on every news station, store window, computer screen and car bumper sticker. But as flashy advertisements, funny videos and celebrity endorsements vie for people’s attentions, it can be difficult to figure out exactly what each candidate stands for. Finding the facts about each candidate’s stance on issues requires a bit of effort, but teenagers should attempt to learn as much as they can, especially as they approach voting age.
It is easy to see that many citizens’ votes are swayed by their emotions rather than their evaluations of the candidates’ stances and policies. Watching the coverage of this election, the evidence for this claim is abundant. Many times facts are skated over as ad campaigns and speeches simply try to berate their opponents and win the viewers’ affection.

CNN tells viewers they should be interested in Clint Eastwood’s antics at the Republican National Convention, or Kal Penn hosting the livestream coverage of Obama’s address at the Democratic National Convention. And teenagers were likely not the only ones excited about Chris Cornell playing a concert in order to raise support for Obama. But watching the celebrity-overloaded coverage of the election can feel a little too much like watching the red carpet at the Oscars.

Video advertisements from both parties are often created for the sole purpose of harming their opponent’s image. Elaborately tailored voice-overs and video clips capture attention, but viewers need to remember not to rely on facts from smear campaigns. Manipulated data and out-of-context quotes are elements of ads thats are far from accurate. By using these ads to attack their opponents, the candidates are distracting people from their own policies and stances. Everyone makes ads like these, Democrats and Republicans alike. These ads are not going to go away anytime soon, as they have unfortunately become an integral part of modern campaigning. It is up to the viewers, especially potential voters, to watch and listen with wary eyes and ears.

Keep a publication’s bias in mind when looking for facts. Comparing what one reads in publications considered to be left-leaning, such as the New York Times, with publications considered to be right-leaning, such as the Wall Street Journal, can be an effective way of finding one’s own opinion. These two publications provide different viewpoints on many issues such as government debt and spending, and comparing the two can help readers make their own assessment. However, publications that are heavily biased, one way or the other, tend to present the facts in a way that benefits their party. Always take this into account when reading biased pieces.

Watching recordings of speeches from both parties’ national conventions can help give students a better understanding of the differences between Obama and Romney’s stances. However, speakers often manipulate the facts and occasionally make errors in their speeches, especially when trying to bolster the perception of their own party. No high school student has time to check the accuracy of every word that comes out of a speaker’s mouth, but unbiased resources can help give you a true evaluation of each party and candidate., whose mission statement proclaims it to be “nonpartisan and nonprofit” and which does not accept funding from any partisan groups, provides an impartial review of statements in speeches and ads for both Democrats and Republicans. This website was created by the Annenberg Public Policy Center as a tool for anyone unsure of what to believe when listening to speeches. states that many of Romney’s attacks on Obama’s foreign policy were over-exaggerated and false during the Republican Convention, and states that speakers such as Julian Castro at the Democratic National Convention made false accusations about Romney’s job creation record.

The easiest way to keep yourself up to date on the facts in the presidential election is to watch, read and listen to as much of the coverage as you can. Don’t put too much weight on attack ads. Instead, pay closer attention to interviews that have candidates lay out their policies and define their stances.
Neither campaign is guiltless of inaccuracies and manipulation. Anyone deciding who to vote for should take caution in what they believe, and use nothing but facts to make their decision.