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?


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

    Carl Nemo **==

  2. “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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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

  7. 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!

  8. “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;”


    — Kent Shaw

  9. 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 **==

  10. 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.

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