What do you look for in a politician?

I’m just trying to get a general sense from the Doper community about this issue. Where do you get your information?
These are a few questions I’m pulling off the top of my head so feel free to expand past what I’ve asked if you wish. Also, when I use “he,” understand it’s shorthand for he AND she.

If you have alligned yourself with one party, do you vote straight ticket or do you consider the other side’s choice?

If you had to choose between someone who very closely relates to your ideology but doesn’t always fulfill promises or someone who tries to always fulfill promises but those promises aren’t necessarily what you believe in, which would you choose?

How educated should he be?

How good of a speaker should he be?
Do you ever research a candidates’ previous voting habits and policy decisions?

Do you get your information from TV, signs on a street, newspapers, and/or independent research?
This isn’t scientific at all. I’m really not sure what questions to be asking. I just want to know one basic question: why do you vote the way you vote?

I tend not to vote in national elections. When I do, it’s often a “protest” vote for some third party, on the assumption I read someplace that a protest vote tends to make all the other parties wonder what’s wrong with their platform. (Of course, my vote is still practically unnoticeable.)

What would tend to stop me from trashing a politician on the SDMB is:

Having done anything to follow up on their campaign promises (regardless of party).
Having followed up on campaign promises I like.
Not having done inexplicable things, particularly contrary to popular opinion.
Not defending/supporting business friends who are caught at criminal activity.
Speaking ability that won’t embarrass me on the TV news.
Sense of humor.

Information about the above comes almost all from the Internet, now. If something important’s going on I may turn on PBS.

  1. I do have a party affiliation, but I tend to vote more on candidates than on parties. (If my recollection is correct, that’s a major trend and in fact, there’s not that many straight-ticket voters anymore. If you’re looking for any scientific data on vote choice, I probably have journal articles lying about.) The only reason I’m not an independent is because there’s been a bit of controversy and lawsuits over open vs. closed primaries here the past few years and I did not want to be disenfranchised in primary elections.

  2. Probably the second, unless their ideological stances were utterly offensive. I’ve been known to support voting for candidates just because they stood for anything and backed it up with their votes. With all that candidates jabber about supporting good things like family and clean government and goals that precious few people would disagree with (valence issues, I believe), almost any rare candidate that will speak out on a positional issue gets some respect, unless that issue is utterly abhorrent to me. (I don’t necessarily mean abhorrent as in a pro-slavery candidate, who would be close to universally abhorrent. As an example, recently some state legislators in my district publicly stated that they were going to put pressure on the local library to “remove” a book to which many people had objected. As I find this close to abhorrent, my inclination would be to vote for other candidates in the upcoming elections, if there were any other candidates. At this point, I need to find information on candidates running in the next legislative elections and find out how to support candidates other than those who support removing books from local libraries.)

  3. Education really depends on the position and constituency. Often, it’s less important than relevant work or service. For example, I’d be more inclined to vote for a State Superintendent of Schools who had a background in education. If someone’s running for State Mine Inspector, some background in mining/engineering would seem a plus. I suppose that I’m saying that it’s important only insofar as it supports a work/service background.

  4. It doesn’t matter too much what kind of speaker he is to me, because I’ll never be able to afford to hear him speak anyway or have the time to do so if he gives a fairly inexpensive speech.

  5. As much as it’s economical for me to do so, yes. Unless I have some economic or personal stake in the election of one representative over another, I’m not going to spend weeks upon weeks researching candidates. A cursory search of news articles on them and a quick review of their policy positions generally suffices.

  6. I get most information from newspapers, keeping in mind the general biases of the newspapers that I read, and the internet. (Even with the internet, it’s generally news sites. I’ve noticed that candidates refer almost solely to valence positions on their websites. Funny how every candidate for every position is pro-family, pro-clean government, pro-good schools, or whatever.) I find candidate advertising most effective in that it points out that a candidate is in the running, not that it provides any substantive information about the candidate. However, I’d have to say that my primary method of getting candidate information is asking people if they have had personal contact with or knowledge of the candidate. If one of my acquaintances worked in a business and a local candidate was the CEO of that business, when my acquaintance says that business was inefficient and that the CEO cared more about being elected to office than running a business, I likely would not vote for that candidate even if I agreed wholeheartedly with their ideological stance.

Basic question: For me, it involves a variety of factors.

  1. I have a third party affiliation at this time (they persuaded me to register at the State Fair booth they were operating.) For a long time, I was not registered with a party, having lived most of my adult life in states where it was required to vote in primaries (or desiring to vote in a primary.) This incidentally has recently changed in Utah, but only for those wanting to vote in the republican primary. I don’t vote straight ticket (as there aren’t candidates of my party for every office), in 2000 I voted for candidates from four different parties.

  2. I’d probably align myself with the first option, ideology over promises. This is mainly due to the fact that a politician can’t possibly deliver on all his/her promises, even if they try, the laws/policies might not pass the legislative body in question.

  3. I think the candidate should be well educated, a college education is a positive attribute. This should help him/her make an informed, reasoned decision about policy (although it’s no guarantee!)

  4. Whether someone can get elected frequently depends on how articulate he/she is on the stump. I think they should be good speakers.

  5. Yes, sites on the internet (particularly www.vote-smart.org) are helpful for researching a candidates positions, and previous voting record (if applicable).

  6. I get most of my information from internet politics sites, which I surf to avidly. Some also comes from newspapers or magazines, I don’t watch that much TV and apart from an occasional telecast of Meet the Press, I don’t expect much from it.