Politics is a dreadful topic. It’s not exactly something that can be easily talked about among friends and family to which one might be able to better understand it. Yet it is one of the most important subjects in the past, present, and future. Actions taken in politics now will impact the world for generations to come. For the average American, their greatest impact they can have in politics is being an informed citizen and voting. As much as I take to heart the importance of being involved in politics, I very much dislike it. So much of being an informed citizen is paying attention to current events and watching what those in power are up to. The issue is that there is only so much information that a person can process and too much can be mentally fatiguing. Why can’t I just get the bare minimum information to be an informed voter and then expand from there? There should be a way that makes being an informed citizen just a little bit easier. Make basic information more accessible on things such as a voting record of a politician, what kind of committees they may be on, and what bills they sponsored. Offer the most bare minimum, yet important, information for those too lazy to do thorough research but still want to have a basic understanding.
It seems as if there always a lot going on in the realm of politics but 2020 seems to be extra crazy. On top of everything that’s happening outside of politics; Donald Trump is the president, Democrats control the House while Republicans control the Senate, and the presidential election is at the end of this year. In all 50 states there are protests against police brutality and a broken justice system. Now more than ever in recent times have Americans been confronted with the importance of being involved in politics.
When looking at a PEST analysis in the domain of politics, there does seem to be an fit for a product that allows for accessibility of specific information on politicians without overwhelming the user with too information. Politically, data on all things politics is free to the people. The United States government is legally obligated to make public certain records such as; bills, the votes for a bill, and who votes for what, etc. Much of this data is available through .gov websites such as Senate.gov. Economically, there is always demand for information on politics. Most obviously, fiscal and monetary policy affect the economy on fundamental levels. According to a survey done by Pew Research Center, 79% of Americans say that economic issues are ‘very important’ to their decision in the 2020 general election. Socio-culturally, awareness on the value of being involved in politics is growing. Recently many social media platforms have been pushing users to register to vote. Facebook, for example, has said that it has helped 2.5 million people register to vote. There is also evidence to suggest that people want to be informed but without the stress that often goes along with it. A study conducted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln focusing on the physical, emotional, and social affects of politics on a sample of 248 million Americans have found that 40% of the participates have attributed their exposure to politics as a reason for increased stress. Finally, technologically, politics is data driven. Aside from using publicly available information, much of the data used in politics is sourced from polls and surveys that are conducted almost constantly. “The Trump campaign in 2016 is accordingly claimed to have “target[ed] 13.5 million persuadable voters in sixteen battleground states, discovering the hidden Trump voters, especially in the Midwest.”
There exists many technologies related to the accessibility of information on politics.Many are mobile apps that are focused on empowering citizens with critical information that can allow them to make informed decisions. Some offer an in-depth analysis on all things related to politics, others focus on more basic things like what’s currently being voted on. What is missing is a platform that offers information on politics to those that want the absolute bare minimum and present it in a simple, easily digestible way.
Here is a competitive matrix on mobile apps and websites in the domain of politics. The x-axis is for how much information is offered, from simple to more complicated. The y-axis is for how involved the user can be, for example sending a particular politician a message or the user voting on a particular topic and discussing it with others.
Having completed a few user interviews, there is a lot of value in understanding what people care about and want in a tool surrounding political accountability. The target demographic for my proposed idea is average Americans, who vote in every election and understand the value of being involved in politics but don’t want to spend more time than they need to researching just so they can be informed. From these user interviews, I was able to better understand a diverse set of perspectives on how people look into candidates in a election and how they try to understand a politician’s profile in general. Here are some examples of questions I asked during these user interviews:
- Have you ever voted in an election?
- Do you think it’s important to vote, why or why not?
- What are important things that you pay attention to when looking at candidates in an election?
- Do you do any research on the candidates? How do you go about doing so?
- What is the hardest part about choosing who to vote for?
- Is there any information on candidates that you wish was more accessible?
- Are there any specific platforms you use when researching candidates?
Using these questions, I interviewed some close friends and family (ages < 40 yrs old) who I know try to be involved in politics as much as they can yet politics is still only a small part of their lives. They offered valuable insight on how average people try to get to know a particular politician more. One of the most valuable insights was how most users expressed desire to know more about a politician’s past and background. Some even specifically stated voting records as a particular example. Another important insight that was echoed by various users was the importance of separating bias from the information they were receiving. A response in this interview that stood out to me was that the user would “ try not to fall into identity politics” when researching politicians. It seems as though the most common way to research a politician is by reading articles from popular news publications. Most users often would rely on information from news publications that they trusted while some others would go out of their way to read from news publications that didn’t normally align with their beliefs. There seems to be a demand for more accessible information of a politician’s past actions while the information also remains unbiased.
Here is my proposed solution; Minimal Political will empower average voters by offering effortless access to voting records of US lawmakers by presenting it in a simple, easily digestible way. As said before, politics is a dreadful topic and because of that, trying to be an informed voter is stressful. Minimal Political will offer a unique way of researching politicians’ track records by focusing only on unbiased, factual data and offering the bare minimum, yet important, information to avoid overwhelming the user.
Designing a user journey will help the idea of Minimal Political remain true to its primary goals. Envisioning an ideal scenario for how Minimal Political will be used will act as a guide to further its mission. Here are some examples of user journeys I’ve imagined;
“I’m Betty, I have a busy job in the tech industry. I vote in every election and I keep up to date on current events. When it comes time to vote in an election, I make sure to research the candidates so that I can make an informed decision. Although I know that understanding where a particular politician’s beliefs are currently, understanding their past actions can allow me to get to know them better. I found MinimalPolitical.com when googling a particular politician’s past voting record. I was able to easily search for that politician and see for myself their past voting record. The information presented was straightforward and I was able to get a clear glimpse of that politician’s past actions.”
“I’m Kevin, I work in a cafe. I care deeply about the direction of politics in the United States and try my best to be an informed citizen. I know the greatest impact I can have in politics is voting and I make sure I know who I’m voting for. When researching a politician, I go out of my way to try to separate the information I’m receiving from the source’s potential biases. Though researching politics can be exhausting and because of this my will power to thoroughly educate myself wears thin. That’s why I use MinimalPolitical.com which I found while researching. I just put the politician’s name in the search bar and their voting record appears on the page. It makes access to voting records simple and offers digestible information without having to worry about any potential biases so that I can more easily be informed.”
“I’m John and I’m full time college student. I study political science and I’m constantly looking for different ways to better understand politics. What makes studying politics difficult is that I’m a visual learner and so I absorb information best when I can clearly see it. I was recommended to use MinimalPolitical.com by my professor which I now use to look up a politicans’ voting records. It presents all the information in a simple, easy to understand way and the best part is that it is mostly visual.”