A rational, if biased, decision making questionnaire on who to vote for

As a follow-up to my previous column about voting for the party based on reason instead of a candidate based on emotions, I put together a questionnaire to help those who are still undecided about who to vote for. Republicans, Democrats and independents can all use this.

Note that most of these questions are phrased with the qualifier of most likely which is why this is a forced choice questionnaire. Therefore the answer “neither” is not allowed.

However, in weighting your answers you should consider whether the question matters to you and how much. If the question doesn’t matter at all, don’t count it.

You can assign your own values to each question or just count them as if they are all of equal importance.

My pro-Democratic Party bias shows in how I phrased some of these questions. I’m sure I left out some questions where McCain and the Republicans can make a better case for themselves. Anyone who wants to add their own questions in the comments section is encouraged to do so.

  • Which candidate do you want to shape the Supreme Court for years to come?
  • Which candidate will be more likely to reverse the Bush efforts to create an imperial presidency (the unitary executive)?
  • Which is more likely to use signing statements to subvert the intention of Congress in passing bills?
  • Which will be be more likely to to be more serious about our image overseas (where the polls released today show that one has four times higher approval ratings than the other)?
  • Which will be be more likely to be a statesman on the world stage
  • Which is most capable to working effectively with world leaders?
  • Which has the most native intelligence to understand complex situations?
  • Which candidate is most likely to solicit advice from experts who disagree with him, and listen to and consider it with an open mind?
  • Which will be more likely to assure that all Americans have the health care they need?
  • Which will be more likely to maintain the separation of church and state in everything from political appointments to family planning grants to education policies?
  • Which will be more likely to remove politics from the Justice Department?
  • Which will be more likely to get us out of Iraq?
  • Which will be more likely to keep us from engaging in preemptive wars?
  • Whose theory of taxation and the economy do you agree with the most (tax cuts for the wealthy leads to jobs for the rest of us or more money in our pockets stimulates the economy)?
  • Which president and party is most likely to implement an effective energy policy for the future?
  • Which is more likely to make home ownership affordable for more Americans?
  • Whose vice president will be most qualified to be president?
  • >

  • Which president will work best with Congress?
  • Which president is less likely to use religious or party affiliation in appointing people, for example to head agencies like FEMA or be U.S. attorneys, but will appoint the most competent?
  • Who will be more likely to be calmer under stress?
  • Which is most likely to either die in office of natural causes or suffer mental deterioration?
  • Which candidate will be more likely to appoint highly qualified people from the other party to responsible positions, including of course National Security Director, Attorney General, Secretaries of State, Defense, Homeland Security and Treasury, and directors of the FBI, NSA and CIA?
  • Which candidate respects women more?
  • Which candidate has more empathy for people less fortunate than he is?
  • Which is more accepting of alternative life styles including sexual preference?
  • Which candidate’s public persona is more consistent with his private self?
  • Which candidate understands the value of scientific research and education to both our society in general and to our economy?
  • Which is most likely to pander to the religious right?
  • Which is most likely to make decisions favoring special interest groups like mega-corporations, including big pharmacy and oil, and the NRA?
  • Which candidate and party is most likely to stop the loss of jobs to companies based overseas?
  • Which is more likely to improve the plight of those struggling to make ends meet?
  • Which is more likely to make higher education affordable to more Americans?
  • Which is more likely to assure veterans are able to get appropriate health care and educational benefits?
  • Excluding terrorism, who has the best overall grasp of how the world – including the United States – has changed in the past 10 – 20 years?
  • Who best understands the underlying causes of terrorism?
  • Who is most likely to protect the United States from acts of terrorism?
  • Who would you rather have at your house for an informal visit?

31 Responses to "A rational, if biased, decision making questionnaire on who to vote for"

  1. Hal Brown  September 12, 2008 at 8:19 am

    Worse than Bush/Cheney?

    This column by Paul Krugman, “Blizzard of Lies” and Carl Nemo’s post above leads me to another, albeit coming from my bias, addition to the questionnaire:

      * Assuming that the way a campaign is run is an indication of how an administration will be run, which candidate is more likely to use deception and lies to influence public opinion?

    Considering that much of the public, as Carl puts it, is “HDTV hazed, illiterate, uninformed, drugged out, alcohol sodden…” oft repeated bald-faced deception and lies are quite effective with about half the population.

  2. Carl Nemo  September 11, 2008 at 9:38 pm

    The ultimate question:

    Which candidates will allow us to go to sleep at night knowing that we have the most responsible people in office as opposed the current rethuglican regime and its proffered “challenged” successors; ie., McCain/Palin…?

    People blew their foot off in 2004 by not risking Kerry/Edwards after so much had already been revealed about these duplicitous, lying knaves that are in the Whitehouse. Instead it turned out to be a close election with Bush/Cheney getting reelected!?

    Are we to see the same outcome with the evidently HDTV hazed, illiterate, uninformed, drugged out, alcohol sodden electorate voting a third term for Bush/Cheney; enabling two Bush/Cheney clones the same nation-destroying modus operandi; ie., high criminal mischief for four more years?

    Maybe it’s the water, the air, or then again maybe they are using subliminal messaging/imprinting on t-vidiots by flashing, vote McCain/Palin over and over again just below the threshold of normal visual perception…?! It simply doesn’t make any sense to me at this time.

    These election outcomes have become quite odd and skewed from a common “survivalistic” sense, but then again who ever said that political outcomes were linked to common sense. :|

    Carl Nemo **==

  3. ekaton  September 12, 2008 at 1:25 am

    “Are we to see the same outcome with the evidently HDTV hazed, illiterate, uninformed, drugged out, alcohol sodden electorate voting a third term for Bush/Cheney;”

    Probably.

    — Kent Shaw

  4. Helen Rainier  September 12, 2008 at 9:05 am

    Hal,

    You’ve taken some heat here for the way your questions are worded. I have no quarrel with them whatsoever.

    In fact, the questions you have articulated are precisely the way I make decisions and it is part of the way I have made my decision on who to vote for in this election.

    One question was of particular interest to me — the one about selection of Supreme Court justices. This is, in fact, a big factor for me.

    Let’s face it — up until the past eight years of Bush, presidents are somewhat restricted by the Constitution and our checks and balances as to what they can and cannot do. In many ways, our selection of our federal representatives is much more important than who is the President. Supreme Court nominees are also a BIG issue.

    The current crop of “conservative” judges has a demonstrated history of making rulings based on personal ideology and not based on the concept of Constitutional law. Scalia, Alito, Roberts and Thomas are abominations who are just plain damned scary people to this 50s some hippie/flower child/Army veteran/feminist/libertarian progressive independent.

    I first took my Oath of Enlistment 30 some years ago but I have not forgotten those things I swore to uphold, protect and defend, and I’ll be damned if I’ll let them fall by the wayside at this point.

    I refuse to go down without putting up a damned good fight and raising whatever stink I can when and if I believe that my government is betraying those principles and doing what they swore they would do — upholding, protecting and defending the Constitution from all enemies — foreign and domestic.

    It is not the “foreign” enemies who are destroying this country it is the “domestic” enemies.

    Thank you for a great commentary. It provides much food for thought!

  5. Charlie Couser  September 12, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    Hal;

    Based on some on the flack you’ve taken with the format of you questions, I would say you’ve stepped on some toes! Keep up the good work…

    Charlie Couser

  6. Hal Brown  September 13, 2008 at 8:46 am

    For those who understood and appreciated this column/questionnaire, thanks. While I missed some important questions on specific areas like the environment and consumer protection, I think it’s a pretty good list of concerns American should have about our future.

    For those who used it as a chance to expound on their reasons for not liking either candidate or party all I can do to respond is repeat that this wasn’t the point.

    It’s anyone’s choice whether they want to use the list to help decide who to vote for between two candidates and parties when neither are acceptable to them.

    Those who identify themselves as progressives can object to a forced choice between the two viable candidates. In this election lamenting not having a perfect progressive party and candidate doesn’t change the fact that even if a significant minority voted for a third party, either McCain or Obama would still become president.

    I laid out my thoughts on this in my August 25th column
    Sensible and Cynical Progressives” (link)
    .

    Let’s face it, being sensible isn’t particularly sexy, but being cynical is. Ahhh, this could be the subject of another column with a psychological slant.

  7. frank verismo  September 13, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    When choices are not rational.

    “Even if someone wants to make a protest vote for Barr, Kinney, Paul or Nader, it doesn’t mean they can’t have a personal preference as to who wins between McCain and Obama based on rational decision making.”

    A vote for an independent is the act of someone voting for the candidate they feel best represents their interests, rather than the lesser of two evils. Yet, you insist on characterizing this as a ‘protest’. It is not.

    As for a preference between Status Quo Left or Status Quo Right, I feel perfectly within my rights to state the preference itself is not rational.

    Such a preference is an expression of a desire to change the storefront while the bodies are still being cut up in the back room.

  8. Hal Brown  September 13, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    Of course everyone is, as Frank says, within their rights to state their preference if it isn’t one of the major party candidates. I never said such a vote was irrational. What would be irrational is to believe that anyone besides Obama or McCain was going to win.

    In writing this:

    Like it or not our next president will either be a Republican or a Democrat. Even if someone wants to make a protest vote for Barr, Kinney, Paul or Nader, it doesn’t mean they can’t have a personal preference as to who wins between McCain and Obama based on rational decision making.

    I mean to characterize a third party vote as a protest in the sense that you want to send a message when the votes are counted. If Ron Paul or Bob Barr, the two most likely to be more than a blip in the vote count, get 5% of the popular vote it will give them and their positions more credibility.

    The lesser of two evils argument is often addressed in books and articles. There are both similarities and differences between the “evils” of the right and left. That being said, it seems to me to be missing a vital point when one believes that both parties and their candidate are so evil that it isn’t worth it to consider which comes the closest to representing their beliefs and values despite the evils.

  9. frank verismo  September 13, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    “There are both similarities and differences between the “evils” of the right and left. That being said, it seems to me to be missing a vital point when one believes that both parties and their candidate are so evil that it isn’t worth it to consider which comes the closest to representing their beliefs and values despite the evils.”

    The only point being missed here is that both major parties serve the same master – and it’s not the People. I would think by now that this would not have escaped the attention of the more astute visitors to this site.

    What passes for government these days is little more than a group of facilitators for the interests of the MIC on behalf of the private international bankers. Care to disagree? Just look araound you. There is not one single aspect of the US government’s contemptous behavior that is not explained by this simple and transparently obvious fact.

    Why on Earth would anyone capable of critical thinking seek to validate such an odious system by voting for either totally controlled party? Even if McCain or Obama actually posessed the degree of autonomy the corporate media pretends they have, their acting on it would swiftly bring about an end to such ambitions.

    America – as it was founded – is on its death bed. Failure (or refusal) to recognize the cause of illness guarantees fatality.

  10. Carl Nemo  September 17, 2008 at 1:12 am

    Thanks Frank Verismo for your incisive, spot-on thought contribution to Hal’s article. I’m impressed and in total agreement!

    Carl Nemo **==

  11. colocritic  September 11, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    My pro-Democratic Party bias shows in how I phrased some of these questions. I’m sure I left out some questions where McCain and the Republicans can make a better case for themselves.

    Yep, love your questions. Obama wins hands down!!

  12. griff  September 11, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    Neither.

  13. ekaton  September 11, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    HA!

    — Kent Shaw

  14. Flapsaddle  September 12, 2008 at 2:22 am

    Ditto!

    The fallacy of the false alternative, or possibly the fallacy of the limited alternative.

    Most sincerely,

    T. J. Flapsaddle

  15. Hal Brown  September 11, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    Forced choice questions demand more of respondents. These questions are constructed so “neither” not only doesn’t produce a helpful result for the person answering the question, but actually makes no sense. Consider:

    “Comparing Check-All and Forced-Choice Question Formats in Web Surveys”
    By Jolene D. Smyth, Don A. Dillman, Leah Melani Christian and Michael J. Stern

    Washington State University

    For survey researchers, it is common practice to use the check-all question format in Web and mail surveys but to convert to the forced-choice question format in telephone surveys. The assumption underlying this practice is that respondents will answer the two formats similarly. In this research note we report results from 16 experimental comparisons in two Web surveys and a paper survey conducted in 2002 and 2003 that test whether the check-all and forced-choice formats produce similar results. In all 16 comparisons, we find that the two question formats do not perform similarly; respondents endorse more options and take longer to answer in the forced-choice format than in the check-all format. These findings suggest that the forced-choice question format encourages deeper processing of response options and, as such, is preferable to the check-all format, which may encourage a weak satisficing response strategy. Additional analyses show that neither acquiescence bias nor item nonresponse seem to pose substantial problems for use of the forced-choice question format in Web surveys.
    LINK emphasis added

    here’s another link on constructing questions.

  16. griff  September 11, 2008 at 7:02 pm

    “My pro-Democratic Party bias shows in how I phrased some of these questions. I’m sure I left out some questions where McCain and the Republicans can make a better case for themselves.”

    Not only do you admit that your questionaire is biased toward the Democrats, but we are also required to choose between just two options – the very reason why we’re in the trouble we’re in today. We never have more than two options.

    While this may offer a more realistic and consistent result, it just proves that polls and questionaires can be easily skewed by the questioner to get the desired results.

    Besides, I want no part in anything that forces me to choose something that I don’t believe in. So I will honor your wish and change my answer from “neither” to “who the hell cares?” I don’t take part in social engineering experiments.

  17. Lillibet  September 11, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    Definitely not a “push poll”, but…

    wouldn’t it be better to refer to the Bush view of the “unitary” executive style as “Dictatorial”, and not simply — or merely — “imperial”, such as

    # Which candidate will be more likely to reverse the Bush efforts to create an imperial presidency (the unitary executive)?

    I mean, just a point.

    As for courts, remember that federal circuit judge appointments are also for life, and as such, the last seven years have had a huge impact on the available justice for litigants and petitioners. A bigger impact, I submit, than the two Supreme Court appointments we’ve most recently had.

    Perhaps we ought to be looking for a President that will undo the shredding of the Constitution, commenced in February, 2001 with blanket wiretapping, and was really accelerated with the USA-PATRIOT Acts, the Military Commissions Acts of 2006, 2007, and the Warner Defense Reauthorization Acts.

    Just that one alone would make me happier. But, sadly there isn’t a candidate from the major parties who will do just that.

    As always, thanks for the posts. Again, a great point to begin, err, expand one’s thinking.
    Lillibet

  18. Hal Brown  September 11, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    Hence the forced choice of deciding which would be most likely to be a

      “… a President that will undo the shredding of the Constitution, commenced in February, 2001 with blanket wiretapping, and was really accelerated with the USA-PATRIOT Acts, the Military Commissions Acts of 2006, 2007, and the Warner Defense Reauthorization Acts.”

    Consider it added to my list.

    I think I addressed style of governing in the question about listening to advisers who disagreed with you and being open minded. A president could still function as a unitary executive and run an imperial presidency and not be like George W. Bush. In fact a true dictator in a dictatorship doesn’t necessarily have to have a dictatorial personality.

    Compare dictators on Wikipedia

  19. Lillibet  September 11, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    Before I roll all the way across the room from laughing…

    . A president could still function as a unitary executive and run an imperial presidency and not be like George W. Bush. In fact a true dictator in a dictatorship doesn’t necessarily have to have a dictatorial personality.

    In the US, dictators come wrapped in a flag, clutching a Bible, proclaiming to all and sundry their wonderful Born Again Cred. Then again, a dictatorial personality could explain so many of those Executive Orders, to say nothing of preemptive warmaking.

    Thanks. Lillibet

  20. gazelle1929  September 11, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    Which, when he invited you for a beer, would not have to ask his aides to figure out which house to tell you to come to?

  21. Hal Brown  September 11, 2008 at 6:35 pm

    Keeping questions consistent:

    Which, when he invited you for a beer, would be most likely to have to ask his aides to figure out which house to tell you to come to?

  22. gazelle1929  September 11, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    Which candidate considers his and his running mate’s children to be just children, and which one considers children to be political assets to be paraded around and commented upon ad nauseam?

  23. Hal Brown  September 11, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    Not to be so picky:

    “Which candidate is exploiting his family for political purposes the most?”

    and my own: “Which candidate is the most hypocritical about using their family to score political points?”

  24. Carl Nemo  September 11, 2008 at 6:53 pm

    Great poll Hal Brown and I didn’t think it was biased towards a democratic candidate at all. I thought the questions very generic and could be applicable to any candidate running for our highest office.

    What left me hushed is that McCain and his newfound VP partner didn’t receive a single checkmark on my behalf concerning any of the questions, therefore advocating them for high office!?

    When I witness the rabid supporters for McCain/Palin at their gatherings, it leaves my blood icey cold to think that Americans who both understand and value their Constitutional Republic, its Constitution, Bill of Rights, and the body of laws for which it stands have to share the same real estate with these cheering, hand-clapping village idiots who gravitate toward these two duplicitous, rethuglican, “bilge rats”…!

    This is not an endorsement for Obama, but simply a warning that the McCain/Palin candidacy represents a grave, possibly terminal threat to our nation if they should be elected in November.

    Carl Nemo **==

  25. Hal Brown  September 11, 2008 at 8:39 pm

    I explained, Griff, why I constructed this the way I did. I even posted a quote and a link explaining the benefits of a using forced choice questions.

    Life choices don’t always involve a series of complex multiple choice questions. For example, in a zoology course I took in the final exam you had to choose all that applied, a,b,c,d,e,f, and each question was graded right minus wrong. To get the question completely right you really had to know the precise answer.

    More often we are presented with either or decisions.

    Again, each question requires you to decide which candidate or party is more likely to (fill in the blank). Anyone can rate the value of the question themselves on any scale they choose to.

    This is not a social engineering experiment. This is meant to help people look at their decision making process on the election. Quite obviously nobody is making you or anybody else try to answer these questions.

    You are right that polls and questionnaires can be constructed to skew the result. However this is a self-administered questionnaire for the sole use of those who choose to answer the questions.

    I admitted to my bias, but I did my best to think of every relevant question someone who cares about the future of America would want to have answered about the next administration.

    Anyone can add their own questions, although I prefer they try to phrase them using the qualifier “is more likely”.

    As for who the hell cares?

    I certainly hope that many people do. Like it or not our next president will either be a Republican or a Democrat. Even if someone wants to make a protest vote for Barr, Kinney, Paul or Nader, it doesn’t mean they can’t have a personal preference as to who wins between McCain and Obama based on rational decision making.

  26. ekaton  September 11, 2008 at 8:56 pm

    Armageddon. A concept whose time has arrived. Let the nukes fly. I’m tired of living in fear. Let the fireworks begin. Who the hell cares?

    — Kent Shaw

  27. Hal Brown  September 11, 2008 at 9:06 pm

    Good question out of this.

  28. Which candidate is most likely to use the politics of fear to influence public opinion in support of policies which, if the full truth was told, might not be supported?
  • Carl Nemo  September 13, 2008 at 1:07 am

    Hi Kent…

    It’s ok to feel that way. I share your sentiments too!

    With 6.7 billion humanoids crawling around planet earth and most aspiring to emulate Western civilized largesse and wastage, I can say unequivocally that we are finished as a species!

    Even at this point in time it would take 1.7 earths to enable its burgeoning population to emulate life in America and the West.

    By 2050 with an estimaed 9.7 billion people it would take 4 earths worth of natural resources to do so!?

    It simply isn’t going to happen! Wars; ie., mighty wars are going to do us in and the survivors are going to look like something from a “Mad Max” movie;ie.,”Beyond Thunderdome” etc. … : |

    My advice to my web friends that may have read my commentary to this site et al. over time is to simply enjoy the moment and forget about the future. Do the best you can, but I firmly believe we’ve moved into the countdown to the end of civilizaton as we know it.

    The future for hominids and planet earth is virtually a black hole event horizon as far as I’m concerned.

    Greed has finished off that which is Good…!

    Carl Nemo **==

  • Hal Brown  September 12, 2008 at 8:08 am

    How is this relevant

    to the questionnaire and the way the forced choice of a “more likely to” question is used? I believe an expert in logic would agree that “more likely” is what makes the answer not a false alternative. The questions don’t force you to assume that there isn’t a third choice, real or hypothetical, other than the two parties and candidates.

    False Alternative
    (also known as False Dichotomy)

    Assuming that only one alternative exists in a given situation, when in fact, other and usually more fundamental alternatives also exist.

    This is frequently expressed by statements such as: “What other explanation could there be?” “I just can’t imagine how any other theory could account for that.” “If there had been no other strategies possible, would you have voted against Hitler?”

    This postulates a fantasy world which cancels out one of the basic realities of existence: the continued presence of alternatives. In essence, the question becomes “if the fabric of reality were rewoven into a different pattern, would you still take the same moral stand against voting?” Since my morals are derived from the nature of man and reality, it is not possible for me to answer this question. In essence, these sorts of dilemmas are perplexing not because they constitute moral problems, but because they constitute metaphysical ones. The “dilemma” being suggested would exist only in another universe that ran by rules inapplicable to our own. Reference

  • Flapsaddle  September 13, 2008 at 1:46 am

    The fallacy of the false/limited alternative referred to the forced choices available. There really is no “choice”; to present them as such is making a distinction without any real difference.

    I understand the purpose of the “forced choice” interrogative; however, after a number of years of more deeply processing the alleged alternatives presented by the major parties, I have come to what is, at least for me, the only ethical choice: Neither of them.

    Most sincerely,

    T. J. Flapsaddle

  • ekaton  September 13, 2008 at 9:09 am

    Thanks, Carl, for expressing with far more eloquence, my feelings. I just get so frustrated, because what IS would not have to BE if not for massive greed in all quarters.

    — Kent Shaw

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