PBS: By the People, Election 2004
Nixon and Kennedy Debate

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Savvy Voter

Pick up tips to help you make informed political decisions in an election year and beyond.

Dissect an Ad
The 30-second TV spot now dominates American politics. How are candidates using political ads to present their messages? What emotional buttons are they trying to push to influence you?

Interpret a Debate
Debates are perhaps the most influential source of information for voters during a campaign. But how do you crack through the "he said, she said" format to get to the meat of the matter?

Analyze a Poll
They may be controversial, but there is no question that political polls are a central fact of American politics - ubiquitous and influential. What do polls really tell us? Can the results be trusted?

Voting in America Timeline
Not sure your vote even matters? Remember that, as the author Alice Walker wrote, "The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any." Still not convinced? Get historical perspective on the hard-won right to vote with our Voting in America Timeline.

Evaluate a Platform
The platforms of political parties are often referred to in the abstract sense during debates and in the news. Few people, however, actually read or know what commitments and promises parties make in their platforms.

Assess a Web Site
Undecided? Uncommitted? The Internet provides you with a quick, convenient and sophisticated way to investigate candidates on their own terms.

View News Critically
Most Americans get their political information from television news. From now through the election, Americans will be inundated with data from polls - during the race they will tell us who's ahead of whom, by how much and why and on election night, exit polls will explain how and why the winner triumphed. These polls, taken by candidates, political parties, interest groups or media organizations, can enlighten, but they can also distort or even mislead, sometimes intentionally.

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