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Voting and civic engagement: Research Candidates

The Libraries' voting guide.

Researching candidates and issues

Research strategies:

  • Use the links and strategies below to find information about the candidates and issues.  
  • Talk to friends and family, ask them who they are supporting and why.
  • If candidates or campaigns come to campus, ask them about issues important to you
  • Watch debates, read about the election when you have time, you don't need to do all the research at once.


  • Voting and ballots can be confusing, so make it easy on yourself and write down your decisions and thoughts.  You can take notes with you when you vote (this isn't a closed-book test)!
  • You can leave questions blank. If you haven't had time to research all the issues and candidates, don't worry! Choose the ones most important to you and just vote for those

Find who is running in an election

Your first step is to find out which candidates are running in the election and which questions will be on the ballot.  

Find information on candidates

For national and state-wide races, information on candidates is easier to find.  You're more likely to find articles about the candidates in newspapers and websites. 

But while they can be harder to research, local elections matter a lot, too.  Local government manages and decides things that directly impact your life on a daily basis. This includes among other things: schools, public safety, housing, roads, public transit, and local taxes.  However, it can sometimes be hard to find information on local candidates.  This list is based on the Methodology post from 2014 by local author and political blogger, Naomi Kritzer.

1. Look at the candidates' websites

The links above should give you the candidates' websites, if they had one when they filed.  Their website should tell you what issues are important to the candidate, what their position is on those issues, and how they might enact change (if change is what they want).  Websites will also list endorsements from other people and groups.  The website should also tell you ways to contact the candidate.

If you cannot easily find the candidates' websites, try searching for the candidate's name and the position they are running for.

2. Search for news stories about the candidates 

Search for the candidate's name in newspapers local to them.  This can often lead you to stories about their positions or things they've done in the past, as well as opinion pieces for and against them.

3. Search for the candidates on the Internet

Do an Internet search for the candidate to find interviews, surveys or questionnaires that the candidate filled out, videos of the candidate, and other discussions of the campaign. You may need to add the city, county, or state and the position they are running for if the name is common. 

4. Look for the candidate's social media accounts 

Many candidates have a Twitter or Facebook account, and often they post information about their positions and interact with voters there.  A LinkedIn account can give you more insight into jobs they've held in the past that may be relevant to their work.

5. Contact the candidate and ask questions

You may have found contact information on the candidate's website, or ways to interact with them on social media.  Use this! The candidates  are often very happy to talk with potential voters and explain their positions, or listen to you and your concerns.  Once a candidate is in office, they should also be open to hearing from and answering to their constituents. Talking with the candidate during their campaign (in person or virtually) can give you a lot of information about the type of official they are likely to be.  If the candidate is not willing to interact with you or answer your questions or listen to your concerns when they're a candidate, that may speak poorly to their communication style as an elected official.

6. Look at websites of local organizations whose work you know and trust

Some local organizations will endorse candidates or will host debates or send questionnaires to candidates about issues that are of interest to that organization.  Keep in mind that the organizations will have a specific goal or agenda, but looking at a number of such organizations can give you a sense of where a candidate stands.