Preparation for Elections with Critical Thinking

“Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.” ~ Thomas Jefferson

“Responsibility to yourself means refusing to let others do your thinking, talking, and naming for you; it means learning to respect and use your own brains and instincts; hence, grappling with hard work.” ~ Adrienne Rich


It’s hard work, but we need to do it. So, just what do we do to think critically so we can really take responsibility for our government and not just go along?

Do the Research

It’s up to you to research the issues and candidates. It’s work, but doesn’t have to be hard.

Critical Thinking means using logic and reason – asking lots of questions – and not taking anyone else’s word for anything, even if you trust and respect that person.

Critical Thinking is open-minded, tries to be objective – self-aware of personal assumptions and prejudices, and considers all the options in order to really find the one you feel best about.

Critical Thinking consciously chooses personal criteria. What is important to you? Write it down and use it to evaluate the issues and criteria.

Critical Thinking does not automatically dismiss a selection just because it’s supported by someone or a group you don’t always see eye-to-eye with. It also does not automatically support a selection because it’s supported by a person or group you often agree with and respect.

Critical Thinking looks past the campaign signs, glossy brochures and spin.

A Process

Gather facts to base your decisions on. Be organized. Put your research and criteria in writing – on paper or the computer.

If you use paper, you can write the name of the issue or candidate at the top and then list your questions down the left side with room for answers. Your criteria could go horizontally across the top so you could evaluate each answer with a yes, no or maybe. If you use a computer, you can create a spread sheet to get really organized – or just set it up like any paper. Get creative. Use colored post-it notes. Have fun with it!

However you do it, just DO IT!

Sample Questions for an Issue 

  • Whose idea was this?
  • Why did they come up with this idea?
  • Do they stand to gain anything from it?
  • Who will benefit from it?
  • What problem will it solve/purpose/goal?
  • Where can I access info/objective facts about the need and solutions?
  • Is the info factual, clear, accurate and relevant (or is it to sell a certain viewpoint)
  • What are the consequences of not doing it?
  • What are the consequences of doing it?
  • Are there other ways to do solve the problem?
  • Is there a history of the issue?
  • Why are some people for it?
  • Why are some people against it?
  • What are all the points of view?
  • Who will pay for it?
  • Who are the stakeholders?
  • Is it fair?
  • Will it improve the standard of living, if so, for whom?
  • Will it make life harder for some? Who?
  • Has a study been conducted to see if it will really solve the problem?
  • Is this really a priority?
  • Are there higher priorities right now?
  • Can we wait?

Sample Questions for a Candidate

Concerning a candidate, you may be be able to ask them questions directly, one-on-one, at a forum, or in an email. Questions will differ for incumbents and new candidates. Incumbents can be asked how they decided to support certain issues and why. You can find out about their voting record and perhaps attend or watch a video of meetings they’ve participated in.

You can also ask others questions about them, but try to get facts, not opinions. Don’t just ask, “Do you like so-and-so?” Ask specific questions like: “How long did it take her to get back to you?” “Did she really answer your question in the detail you needed?”

More Sample Candidate Questions

  • Why do you want this position?
  • What’s in it for you?
  • How do you get constituent input?
  • How do you use constituent input?
  • How do you deal with constituents who do not agree with you?
  • How did you research issue X?
  • What qualifies you to do this?
  • How do you work together with a team?
  • How do you work together with people who don’t agree with you?
  • What are your critical thinking skills?

Start thinking critically now!