Online quiz to help undecided students ‘decide’

(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON – To a jingle of patriotic rock music, a flashing image of an animated Uncle Sam is lighting up computer screens across the country, urging college students to vote for their ‘presidential match.’

With the 2004 presidential election less then a week away, many young voters are still confused about the political rhetoric both candidates use to explain their platforms — making it difficult to decide who to vote for.

The website, www.voteforsomething.com, was launched last week to help undecided students decide which candidate holds values closest to their own.

A three-minute quiz asks users questions about their beliefs on several issues central to the campaign including: Health care, the War in Iraq, the economy, gun control, the environment and abortion. It then provides a comparison of viewpoints to those of President George W. Bush and Sen. John F. Kerry.

“We created this survey so voters can quickly and easily look at both sides of key party issues and see how their beliefs align with the candidates,” said Nick d’Arbeloff, a software executive in Massachusetts who created the site.

D’Arbeloff said he was amazed to learn that over the summer only about 30 percent of the voting-age population between 18 and 30 years old show up to vote in the United States, compared to approximately 50 percent of the total voting population — a stark contrast with Europe where 80 percent to 90 percent of the voting-age population actually votes.

“There are real issues at stake in this election that impact us all-ones that youth voters in America really care about,” he said. “The goal is for young people to make an educated decision on whom to cast their ballot for.”

In its first week of use, the website served nearly 5000 people, two-thirds of which identified with Kerry. One-third of participants identified with Bush.

While most students who took the quiz said they enjoyed its fun nature, many said the questions were biased and clearly pushed students towards Kerry.

“I liked the animation and styling a lot, but I felt the questions were overly biased towards Kerry,” said Kate Schindler, a sophomore at the George Washington University. “The answers Kerry would identify with sounded a lot more reasonable and Bush’s sounded a lot more extreme.”

Others said the quiz did not accurately reflect their political views.

Sasha Miller is a Florida voter and a senior at the George Washington University. She thought the format and style of the quiz were great, but said the quiz failed to show her real political affiliation.

“This quiz told me that I relate more to Kerry, which I know is definitely not true,” she said. “I am an informed voter and know that Bush stands for a lot of things I believe in, a lot more than Kerry does.”

Miller also said the questions were written in a manner that led students to choose the candidate that the site creators wanted them to choose.

“There was no middle ground on the questions but rather very extreme ideas,” she said. “The conservative ideas were very negative and not entirely accurate on what the average conservative, or liberal for that matter really believes.”

D’Arbeloff said the quiz was created to be unbiased and that his staff went through several drafts of the questions to ensure they were fair. He said the questions were tested on students and political savvy adults of both parties.

“The only bias we came across in our final testing of the questions was on the last page of the quiz that provides the results,” he said. “Kerry is smiling and Bush is not.”

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