Julie Angell

Politics are bearable, thanks to apps

I was sitting beside my friend this weekend and noticed she was intensely staring at her phone for about 30 minutes, so I asked her what was up. I figured she would be scrolling through Instagram, but instead she was taking a quiz to see who she should vote for in the 2016 presidential election. A few questions used her stance on economics, social issues and general policies to calculate a candidate for her. It turns out she stands with Bernie Sanders, but what’s most important is how easily she was able to find that result.

It’s not exactly an app, but ISideWith.com is a website that helps non-political science college majors understand the presidential race a little better. It was around in 2012, along with other political quizzes, so it’s not new. But, political websites and apps seem to be working together to un-complicate the presidential race for voters and to spread knowledge.

In the summer of 2012, ISideWith.com had almost 750,000 visitors. That number only increased after NPR wrote about it. Today, ISideWith.com’s tracker says that over 30 million voters use their quiz to find a candidate match.

A couple days ago, when I thought about “political apps,” Twitter was the only thing that came to mind. Media has the role of simplifying things; government, crime, politics, etc. Political groups and campaigns are especially difficult to discern, so technology came along and helped us out.

Along with ISideWith.com, the Boston Globe created an app fit for desktop and mobile that provides a clean-cut display showing who’s winning and who’s behind in each 2016 caucus and primary. It’s a different approach to politics, but helpful nonetheless. Twitter has played a huge part in this app’s success. The tweets linking to the app pull in “about 10 times the traffic that the Globe normally gets to article pages via Twitter,” according to Laura Hazard Owen in a Nieman Lab article.

“Just like Facebook and Twitter in the 2008 political campaigns, mobile apps are the latest ‘must have’ in reaching out to ‘touch and engage’ potential voters and supporters,” said Brenda Krueger Huffman in a Business Insider article.

The team that pieced together the Globe‘s app consisted of a software engineer, newsroom developer and designer. The layout is simple, clean and easy to understand. It also updates fast and it’s easily accessible. Like most things millennials are attracted to; it cuts through the bullshit.

Other apps for the 2016 election year include  matchmakers for politics (formatted like Tinder), a community polling platform, an election simulation game, and an app that delivers up-to-date polling results. There’s also a Hillary Clinton simulation app, but we won’t get into that.

So it seems that quizzes and apps that tell us where we stand and what’s happening in politics would help, right?

In addition to seeing politicians spew obscenities and off-topic answers to debate questions, we also need news outlets and apps to break down the basics for us. From my observations, political apps have gained a lot of ground since 2008 when Twitter and Facebook dominated the political media terrain. Whether or not you agree, apps and websites like those mentioned are helping us understand and interact with political races more efficiently, it’s a fact that social media and technology have changed the voting game.

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