Political Feature Matrix

question blockThe Oregon primary ballots are due soon. “Soon?” Yes, for those unfamiliar with our system up here, everything is done by mail or by drop-off. There’s no polling place and polling date, just a mail-in deadline. I think the government might think that the November weather might be too cold, wet, and dreary for people to traverse it to go vote–so we vote by mail, even in the primaries. We’re also not trusted to pump our own gasoline. Anyway, I have a gut feeling about who I’m voting for, but I’d really like to have a bit more rationality behind it.

And now a bit of a sidebar…

In my line of work, the sales and marketing folks use a particular style of comparison called a “feature matrix.” You might have seen these kinds of things before, as they’re not just relegated to the tech sector. You start with a grid or table with labels across the top and sides. One axis is a list of the competing products or services being compared–say a TechMaster SuperWidget 3000, a Bambleweeny 57 Sub-Meson Brain, and a Yoyodyne oscillation overthruster. The other axis is the set of features being compared–power source, number of serial ports, top spacial speed, top temporal speed, etc. The main content of the grid consists of checkmark boxes to say yes, this product has this feature or numbers to convey similar information (the widget has 2 serial ports, but the overthruster has 3.)

When feature matrices are used correctly, they present an impartial and objective comparison between products. When they’ve been giving a marketing department spin, eh… not so much with the fair-and-balanced. Categories–quite often entirely useless ones–might get chosen to make one product appear better and more feature-rich than the others. Oh, look, the overthruster is the only product with polarized filters over the display so that you can read it cleanly outdoors, even under direct sunlight. Wait, what? Who’s going to use any of these products outdoors? But it does give you a feature checkmark for one product that none of the others have. You get enough of those, and at first glance, it looks like one product is much better than others.

…and that’s then end of my sidebar.

So, dear inkernet, I ask you: where can I find a reasonably unbiased feature matrix of the candidates? Ideally, it would have Hillary and Obama (and perhaps others?) along one axis and issues (war, taxes, spending, abortion, death penalty, etc.) across the other. The main content of the table would then be brief descriptions of each candidate’s stance on each issue. Extra special super bonus if references are cited so that inquisitive readers can consult the primary sources of the summarized data.

Posted in: Dear Diary Questions

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