Political candidates are always persons of interest since they will be vying for national positions meant to rule a nation. Holding such a prestigious post is regarded as an honor and that is the dream of all politicians. A political career only rewards when a person wins big in elections so before one amasses votes, there is a need to research that particular candidate.
What is Political Candidates Research?
The MasterClass staff defined candidate research as “the process of researching a candidate to develop a full understanding of their experience, voting records, position on issues, and more”.
It was noted also that “when those who work in professional politics talk about candidate research, they are referring to the research that a campaign manager or other staffer conducts on the candidate they work for”.
But candidate research also touches on voters who research on the perfect candidate to vote for. Also, rival candidates in elections carry out candidate research in-order to understand their opponents and sometimes use the gathered information to tarnish one’s image in the face of voters.
How to evaluate political candidates
Evaluating political candidates is a difficult task. This is because politics is more of an art form since politics involves perception and presentation in order to win over voters. It wasn’t easy then to judge political candidates with numbers but there are ways on evaluating them based on their records, history, experience, past work history, voting record, platform, and what they promised during campaigns.
When one is researching a political candidate, there are several factors to consider:
In the United States, party affiliations weigh heavily in elections since it plays a significant role in determining who wins an election or not. For instance, a registered Republican voter would most likely vote for a Republican candidate while a Democrat will vote for a Democratic candidate. This is because parties play a vital role in orienting voters to vote for certain candidates and it is the American people’s way of picking presidential candidates.
Political experience and history
When one researches on political candidates, he/she also needs to evaluate the person with regards to his/her political experience and history. Especially when a person is running for president or seeking a national position, the one who wins needs to have political experience and knowledge about how the system works. For instance, a candidate running for the US presidency must be aware of foreign relations and domestic policies as well as other things.
When researching on candidates, groups that research their past votes, voting records, and platforms will be helpful in understanding their political views. Some people research candidates based on what they want in a president or how they think the candidate will run the nation if he/she gets elected.
Candidates need to outline clear campaign promises so that voters can know what to expect if their chosen candidate gets elected. This means that a candidate must have a firm stand on issues and it should be rendered in the form of promises.
If research shows no record of political experience, voting records, or platform, voters can proceed with caution by researching more about the person’s history. It is important to go beyond what is offered on websites or what is said at forums.
Why research on political candidates?
Karl Rove noted the significance of candidate research in politics and said “Everybody is gonna find out everything. By doing research on your own candidate, you’re going to identify possible lines of attack that your opponent is going to use. And you can prepare for them. You can think through what might they say, how might they say it, and what ought to be your response,” [Source].
Political consultant and Chief Strategist for former US president Barack Obama, David Axelrod describes the importance of political candidate research in this statement:
“It’s essential to really understand who your candidate is—their biography, their record, what makes them tick, what’s important to them, what they’ve done with their lives. You need to know the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s particularly important, in my view, to know what their struggles have been because everybody has struggles in their lives and those struggles define us. Barack Obama lost his mother to cancer, and she had a horrendous time with her insurance company at the time of her illness. That really motivated him on the issue of healthcare, so when he talked about healthcare and we did an ad about it, he very much was thinking about his mother. In every candidate interaction, I have at the beginning of a campaign, I try to find out not just about the good things that happen in people’s lives, but about the hard things that happen in their lives. It’s a delicate balance to deal with candidates in the information-gathering period because sometimes they’re not completely forthcoming with you about their liabilities. Sometimes they just don’t recognize them to be liabilities or they’ve forgotten. This was a lesson I learned, and you should never make the same mistake. I had a race where the candidate was good in many, many ways, except for one: he didn’t vote on a regular basis. And after that moment—this was relatively early in my career—in every subsequent political campaign, the first thing that I checked about my own candidate was if they vote regularly, because if they don’t, it’s deeply offensive to people. They don’t want someone applying to lead the choir when they’ve never attended church. So you really want to check those things out”
Clearly, it is paramount to voters, electorates, and participating candidates to carry out political candidate research, as this helps voters in choosing the correct candidate to vote for, aids electorates to do a fair selection of candidates to participate in elections, and gives an advantage to candidates to outsmart each other and win in elections.
Ways to research political candidates
There are diverse ways of conducting research on political candidates and the methods rely on a country’s political environment.
One of the most common ways is to study a candidate’s voting record and denote his or her political views. For instance, the world is faced with human rights issues in regards to the LGBT community and animal rights, so politicians are always at the center of such heated matters.
By studying one’s voting record, people can see the type of candidate a person is and learn a lot about their worldview. For instance, candidates’ voting records in the US are shown on different websites which include Congress.gov, Vote411.org, and FactCheck.org
One-on-one interviews can be used to research political candidates, and this is very effective especially when a candidate’s friends and family members are included in the interview. Interviewing candidates personally review more information about their beliefs and can project how one will lead if he or she wins in elections. The interviews can touch on a person’s early life, career, family, business, friends, and views on current topical issues.
Investigating a political candidate’s finances is another form of research on a candidate. Launching a political career demands money and some candidates are swayed to indulge in illicit ways to get funds such as taking money from drug traffickers, so understanding one’s financial flow can be useful in researching a candidate.
In relation to investigating a candidate’s finances, Honest Ballot argued that “A campaign’s finance history is an excellent way to figure out who a candidate’s friends are. See who has donated to a candidate’s campaign and ask yourself if those donating align with your opinion and interests” [Source].
A voter can research a candidate by simply checking if the candidate focuses on issues that matter to the voter. For example, youths will only support a candidate that talks about allowing youths to also rule and advance a country’s technology sector or maybe introducing an affordable education system.
People can research candidates by approaching the campaign office or calling at the office and asking questions on subjects they deem relevant [Source]. One can judge with the answers given by a candidate’s representatives or campaign managers.
Information about other candidates can be acquired from news sources and voters are able to research about candidates by just referring to various credible news platforms or trusted media houses [Source].