Bias in Traditional News Media
The days when Americans could simply turn on a TV news show and trust the anchorperson to give them a true, impartial account of the nation's news are long gone. Many network "news" shows have devolved into pure entertainment, and most at their core have increased viewership rather than accuracy as their prime goal.
Instead, we must seek out unbiased news sources and/or watch multiple accounts to get a truer picture of the nation's news.
Ad Fontes Media puts out a periodic Media Bias Chart (you can find it at MediaBiasChart.com) that ranks news sources on two scales... accuracy and neutrality. The chart resembles an inverted pyramid, with relatively accurate and unbaised sources such as the Associated Press, Rueters, Bloomberg, C-SPAN, ABC News and CBS News up near the top center. National Public Radio and PBS television rank high on truthfulness, but slightly to the left of center on neutrality. All of these sources rank in the green ("News") rectangle. From there, the categories devolve into yellow ("Fair Interpretations of the News"), orange ("Extreme or Unfair Interpretations of the News"), and red ("Nonsense, Damaging to Public Discourse"). Some popular "news" programs on both sides of the political spectrum fall into the orange and red categories.
Polarizing Social Media Algorithms
Another major factor in our increasing political polarization are the "algorithms" on Facebook and other social media platforms that determine which content we see. The algorithms, designed simply to retain viewer interest, have learned to show viewers more of the same content for which they've shown a past preference, and in addition lead users gradually to more extreme content on their preferred side.
So Beware! If you rely on social media for your news, you are almost certainly getting a very one-sided and inflammatory version of events. Two next-door neighbors, one liberal-leaning and one conservative-leaning, will see entirely different events emphasized, and different slants on the exact same events, on their social media feeds.
A 2017 TED talk by Zeynep Tufekci, titled "We're building a dystopia just to make people click on ads," is a good introduction to the problem if this concept is new to you. It is, in fact, a popular topic on that platform; if you go to TED.com and search the talks for the keyword "algorithm" you'll find dozens of eye-opening videos around this subject.
Be aware, too that some of what you see on social media or the internet in general is pure fabrication. Check for corroborating stories, and make use of fact checking sites (such as FactCheck.org or PolitiFact.com) whenever you suspect that a post or article may not be true.
LWV Educational Resources
Check the documents available on our Information for Delaware Voters page.
The League of Women Voters provides VOTE411, a free, non-partisan voters guide as a service to the voting public.
Visit www.VOTE411.org prior to each election to see a sample ballot for your location, compare the viewpoints of the candidates for those races, and text or email yourself your candidate selections for later reference. The website also offers links to general election information for the state of Delaware, such as election dates, registration deadlines, and polling places.
To learn more, watch this 15-minute video tutorial on how to use the voters' guide feature of the Delaware VOTE411. Short version... start by entering your address in the form at the left side of the VOTE411 home page and then click the big green "Get personalized information on candidates and issues" button.
Note: VOTE411 was re-branded in 2019, so it has a fresh, clean look! We'll have a new tutorial video out in 2020 featuring the updated website.
Candidate forums by the League or other community organizations are a valuable service, providing one of the only opportunities voters have to listen to candidates offer more than just a brief sound bite. Forums provide an opportunity to hear what candidates are saying and to form your own opinions of the candidates based on your own observations.
When choosing a forum to attend or watch online, the League recommends selecting one that is non-partisan, inviting all declared candidates to participate, and covers a broad range of topics rather than a narrowly focused set of issues.
LWVNCC sponsors and moderates forums at the local level, such as town council or city mayor races, and LWVDE sponsors forums for statewide candidates. Under League rules, all filed candidates for a particular office must be invited to participate, and there must be more than one candidate present for the debate or forum proceed. If only one candidate accepts our invitation, we can hold a "Meet and Greet" but not a forum with a full seated audience.
Many additional voter information websites have become available in recent years, with the goal of informing the public and inspiring them to vote. A short list includes Ballotpedia.org, Vote.org, BallotReady.org, VoteSmart.org, TurboVote.org, VotingInfoProject.org, RockTheVote.com, IssueVoter.org, and iSideWith.com.
So there is no shortage of information. Don't be shy... get out there and learn what you need to know!