2016: The year of the political app?

Reporter: Lindsey Sablan
Published: Updated:

(SWEEPS FEED)- Election season is in full swing, and with the presidential nomination up for grabs in both parties, staying on top of all things political can be a tall order.

Now, new apps are designed to help voters stay informed, and even identify the candidate that best fits their views.

For busy college student Grady Voigt, staying current on the presidential contenders was overwhelming.

“There’s a lot of candidates right now so I¬†didn’t, so as far as which one I¬†really didn’t know which one to go for,” said Voigt.

When he learned about an app that would pair him with a candidate based on the issues most important to him,¬†“I thought it was really cool and a very interesting app,” Voigt said.

Voigt uses an app called Voter, which is designed so users swipe the screen to indicate how they feel about different issues and ultimately match with a candidate. Hunter Scarborough came up with the concept for Voter.

“We can show you which candidates support the same issues that you do. We’re looking at hundreds of thousands of data points as to how they voted, what they’ve said publicly, how many times they bring up an issue, a number of other things as well. This is all data that actually, you know, it’s out there and it’s available and I¬†think it’s kind of ridiculous to expect the average voter to take the time and go look at that themselves because it’s just overwhelming,” said¬†Scarborough.

Experts say 2016 could be the year of the political app. Political science professor Jeanne Zaino believes applications are the next frontier for campaign technology and the growth has already been tremendous.

“We’ve seen a lot of apps out there designed to help voters not only give them information about the candidates but help them figure out where to vote, how to go to the polls and also issues, and figure out what kind of candidates they may have the most affinity with,” Zaino said.

The difference between political apps this election cycle versus previous years according to Scarborough?

“We’re reaching that point where it suddenly is, these apps are not targeted at people that are already politically engaged. They’re targeted at, at everyone. They’re targeted at the every day¬†voter,” said¬†Scarborough.

Professor Zaino says it’s a good idea to look at the source of the application to determine if there’s any possible bias and she points out you should never rely entirely on an app to dictate your decision in the voting booth.

“Applications, I¬†think, are a good start, the one thing I¬†would caution people is that, you know, once you look at those you really, the onus is on you to look further at the candidate and, and figure out if this is really a good fit for your or not.”

Zaino adds, since political apps are so new, more data is needed before it’s known exactly what sort of impact they’ll have on the political process.

“Can these apps really shape decision making? Can they turn people out to the polls? What apps are doing that to the greatest extent? What apps are not working? And I¬†think that’s what we’re going to be looking at going forward,” Zaino said.

As for Voigt, he’s convinced and he encourages his friends to use political apps as well.

“It helps, you know, not only what candidate you support, but why you support them,”¬†Voigt said.

Professor Zaino also recommends not depending on only one app, but varying the source of the information you get.

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