Political Awareness 101

Tips on how to better inform yourself on the candidates and issues


It’s election time! One thing this time of year always reminds me of is how woefully ignorant I am of politics. Generally my political knowledge is limited to whatever news stories my husband is obsessed with or whatever rants my Facebook friends are posting. Like many Americans I find politics frustrating.

However, I am not a completely ignorant voter. A few days before voting I go to the League of Women Voters website and download their bulletin. They generally ask candidates their position on hot topics and present pros and cons of other issues on the local ballots. It makes me feel more informed and alleviates some of my guilt for not paying more attention the rest of the year.

And we should pay more attention. We are now the sandwich generation. We are taking care of elderly parents and growing children. Almost EVERY issue will affect us directly. From social security to college tuition to health care, all of it matters to us.

We Generation Xers are also sandwiched between two much larger groups: baby boomers and millennials. It is especially important the we get out to vote and vote well to make sure our concerns are heard.

How can you become more politically aware?  Try a couple of these ideas for starters:

1. Read a newspaper. Find a large national newspaper that is relatively neutral and make it a point to read 3 or 4 times a week.

2. Check out foreign news. News outlets like the BBC often don’t have a vested interest in American politics so sometimes they will report information in an unbiased manner.

3. Use social media and blogs…cautiously. There are a many online channels and blogs that “report” on politics. They are definitely more entertaining than the regular old newspaper. Just remember that sometimes these sources are heavily biased towards one party. Also, some of these sources are just Joe Schmoe sitting in his basement ranting with limited fact checking.

4. Go high tech. There are several apps available that can help keep you up to date on issues you care about.

5. Think local, nationally, and globally. We don’t live in a vacuum. Many of the complicated issues of today have impact locally, nationally and globally. Invest the time to watch your local news. Check out the Associated Press  to find out what’s happening in other countries.

6. Listen to the opinions of people who disagree with you. Other people have different perspectives and different sources of information than you do. Even if you don’t agree with that person, a conversation about an issue will help you be more informed about both sides of the debate.

Written by Myrtis Smith

African American. Female. Christian. Sometimes-Vegetarian.

Wife. Mother. Daughter. Sister. Friend.

Writer. Teacher. Zumba Enthusiast.