It may come as surprise to learn that despite the wealth of information at our fingertips, most Americans are woefully uninformed about politics.
Numerous studies, surveys, and publications have confirmed Americans’ relative ignorance about current events, elections, and even laws. For example: in 2013 the Pew Research Center found 23% of Americans could not identify a picture of Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower who was one of the more talked about people in the world at that time.
In that same survey, more than half of those prompted could not identify Egypt on a map and only 56% of people knew what the Common CORE education standards were. When it comes to politics, many of us know even less. According to one study, about 44% of Americans did not realize the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare” was passed as a law. If many of us do not know about one of the most influential laws in recent years, how can we be expected to know about the nuances of elections and which candidate would do the most to improve our lives?
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Not knowing news and politics isn’t necessarily our fault. Many of us live very busy lives and may not even have the time to buy a newspaper, let alone research those in political office. If you are interested in becoming a more informed citizen, though, there are a lot of great resources out there. From traditional news outlets to political blogs and social media, you have all the information you need at your fingertips. Here are some of the best ways to develop a better political awareness.
Get the News
Believe it or not, the simple act of reading the news can have a big impact on how politically informed you are. Although newspaper subscriptions have been on the decline for some time, national newspapers such as the New York Times and USA Today are still a great source of information on elections, law making, and political campaigns.
These newspapers have a global reputation to maintain, so they’ll likely have accurate, relatively unbiased information. Independent news outlets like Mother Jones are also reliable and often focus on politics. That said, learning about politics by watching the news is a little like assuming you know what life is like for prison inmates just because you’ve toured Alcatraz.
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If you’re really concerned about bias in your news – which is sometimes inevitable despite the best of intentions – you can also subscribe to foreign publications like The Guardian or BBC. Being removed from the issues at hand, our friends across the pond are often a little more balanced in their coverage of hot button U.S. issues.
No matter which publications you choose, newspapers today are better than ever because you don’t necessarily have to buy a subscription or read the paper cover to cover to get your news. Limited versions of most major newspapers are available for free online, and these will usually have the most important stories. Many of them also have apps for your smartphone or tablet. By enabling push notifications for these, you can get the news headlines in real-time.Use Social Media and Blogs
News can sometimes seem a little dry, but social media can make it a little more entertaining. Major news sources like the Associated Press have Facebook and Twitter accounts, and by following them you can stay more informed. If you want to stay as up-to-date as possible, Twitter is an especially great resource because news is posted in real-time. You can also search hashtags to view the complete discussion of a subject. For example: #GunControl follows the debate over gun control.
Political blogs often provide great discussions on issues as well. You just have to read them with a grain of salt, though, as many of them are blatantly biased and may contain inaccurate information. To stay balanced, it’s a good idea of read articles covering both sides of an issue, and then check your facts besides. Also, make sure you know which blogs have a reputation for checking their facts. For example: the SCOTUS blog is managed by a group of lawyers and provides very accurate, unbiased coverage of Supreme Court Cases.
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