The Candidate Dating Game

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

Campaigning for president must feel a lot like dating... You try to make a great first impression; go on a full charm offensive; spend a lot of time at dinners and parties; and, after a certain amount of time, try to get people to commit. So I suppose it's little wonder that some of the same online tools people use to find dates are now being used to match you with your dream candidate. But, do they really work? Eric Zorn, the Chicago Tribune columnist, tried out ten of them and says, no they don't. Here are some of the more well-known candidate matching sites... Try them out and let us know, how do they work?

Minnesota Public Radio Select A Candidate

Washington Post Choose Your Candidate Quiz

USA Today Candidate Match Game

Glassbooth Election Quiz



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I think it worked pretty well. It matched me with the candidate I actually agree most with (Dennis Kucinich) rather than the candidate I'm actually supporting (Barack Obama).

Sent by Keith Hood | 2:18 PM | 1-17-2008

according to Glassbooth, I agree 100% with Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and Barack Obama...I find that highly unlikely

Sent by Evan Bradley | 2:29 PM | 1-17-2008

Sorry to be so negative, but . . . I get a different result with each of these "who you should vote for" tests I take (People have linked me to them for months). None has been an accurate depiction at all (each is skewed specifically due to the way questions are formulated, the weight given to specific questions, and multiple choice options given).

It would also be valuable if they included third party candidates as they only reinforce the 2 party structure when there may be third party candidates that share your views with greater consistency than a democrat or republican.

Glass Booth ranked my top 3 as:
Kucinich, Gravel, Edwards

MPR ranked my top 3 as:
Kucinich, Clinton, Obama

I don't plan on voting for any of them.

Justin from Wisconsin

Sent by Justin | 2:42 PM | 1-17-2008

Either the (Washington Post) quiz isn't well made or the (Democratic) candidates really are almost identical and this popularity contest style election is the best we can do, talking about 'Electability' and 'Wanting to have a beer with'. Sort of sad.

Sent by Bill Kenkel | 2:42 PM | 1-17-2008

I just tried all four polls and it was quite interesting.

In the Glassbooth poll, Mike Gravel came ahead, and even though I feel I am rather well-informed, I never heard of him!

The Minnesota poll forced me to prioritize about which issues took I really cared about, and came closest to who I think I probably will vote for.

The Washington Post poll was helpful in that it narrowed it down by party first of all, but it only included the top three (no Dennis Kucinich). Also, there was too much similarity of the positions, and too much reading!

Sent by Kandy Alter | 2:46 PM | 1-17-2008

Interesting results, since I'm a die-hard Democratic in a Republican state and an ultra-Republican city: I was matched with Kucinich twice (understandable), Edwards twice (really get that one), and Romney (WHAT??) once. Considering I'm currently leaning towards Obama, I don't think I'll place too much weight in these results. I'll vote with my gut come November.

Sent by Mike in Cincinnati | 2:49 PM | 1-17-2008

I was matched with Ron Paul. I am a libertarian, and am not surprised at all! Maybe these quizzes will help people think outside of the horse-race polls that only think of the winner for that moment? I sure hope so.

Sent by Krysta Jackson | 2:50 PM | 1-17-2008

I tried one of those sites in the last presidential election. I don't even remember who it told me I was aligned with, but I remember loving the process because there was so much information & I learned about issues that I never knew I would really care about. I think it was, but it explained all sides of each issue. It was great.

Sent by Jessica | 2:50 PM | 1-17-2008

It would be nice if the results could include lesser-known candidates--it's somewhat misleading to claim these actually match people to the candidate with the closest views when not all candidates are included.

Sent by Kelcey Wilson (Candidate for US President) | 2:54 PM | 1-17-2008

No, it may not read your mind perfectly, I think the MPR poll is great for two reasons

1. it alerts people to the fact that but most of our decision making is really based on sound bites and intangibles that may or may not truly represent the candidates

2.It opens people up to the possiibility of supporting the non-traditional candidates who may be independents, non-legacy, or simply lesser known candidates who have something to say.

Let's break up the monopoly, please!!!!


Sent by Cherie Conley | 2:56 PM | 1-17-2008

Bob just mention Ron Paul as a candidate that you may agree with 95% of the time but there is something that is just a deal breaker. For Paul he said that his writings from 10 or 15 years ago. Which writings are these? The ones in the "Ron Paul" news letter that were not written by Ron Paul? Or are there others?

Sent by crem88 | 2:56 PM | 1-17-2008

Why shouldn't one vote for the candidate one agrees most with on the issue that are closest to one's heart, especially in the primaries? I also lined up most closely with Kucinich and did vote for him in the Michigan primary this Tuesday. Yeah, Kucinich lacks a certain magic for me too, but if more of us who agreed with him on the positions actually voted for him in the primaries might it not persuade some of the other more viable and charismatic candidates to move their positions closer to our ideal?

Sent by Ned Collins | 2:56 PM | 1-17-2008

Every quiz I took matched me with Dennis Kucinich, who I actually did vote for in the Michigan primary. I suspect that if more people actually voted according to their beliefs, he would be doing much better in his candidacy.

Sent by Linnaea | 2:57 PM | 1-17-2008

I took the poll also, and came out differently than I expected. In retrospect however, I think the actual results from the poll are right.

My reflection that the poll accurately hints at the amount of cognitive dissonance that can exist in communities and organizations where a dominant view is the norm and so called "alternate" views no matter how mild are viewed as radical, hence forcing conformity to the norm.

By the way I came out with Kucinich and Richardson, even though I (think I) lean toward Obama

It prompts these questions:

What effect is the press and peer pressure influencing our decisions on politics, even though most people think they are independent
thinking and
can in no way be affected by outside sources.

What type of a poll is this (from a technical perspective)?

Sent by Dave | 2:59 PM | 1-17-2008

Yes, there's a reason Kucinich and Ron Paul show up so often in this scenario. Kucinich is the only Dem who supports gay marriage; if you support gay marriage and getting out of Iraq, he's automatically going to be your match. Ron Paul is the only candidate (I think) who supports getting out of Iraq ASAP and is vehemently anti-abortion. So if you too happen to hold those positions, then it's a done deal that the software says he's your guy. Other candidates are less unique than these two.

Sent by lt | 3:00 PM | 1-17-2008

It goes to show that issue stance is really only part of the consideration. Sort of like dating. What you think is important to you may or may not be the truth. It's the yin-yang of thought v emotion and which has greater sway in the booth.

Sent by susan | 3:01 PM | 1-17-2008

The big problem with these quizzes is that there is no room for nuance, and huge room for [involuntary] bias on the part of the creators. Taking the second one, the creator has to distill into a single phrase or quote the candidate's entire position. Taking the first one, Candidates tend to make a lot more noise about their positions that they deem to be popular, and they tend to phrase their position in a way that aligns them with their target audience. When viewed in context a voter can read the meaning "between the lines." Out of context, you cannot identify the "code words" that are used when speaking to a particular audience.

Sent by Alex | 3:01 PM | 1-17-2008

I too was most equal to Kucinich in my views! Maybe people should take these surveys more seriously, because they don't base value on candidates, but issues. I thought that is supposedly what people base their vote on. If I were to vote, I would now vote for Kucinich!

Sent by Elsa | 3:01 PM | 1-17-2008

What's sad is that people take the quiz, get aligned with someone they've never heard of, then instead of investigating, just say, oh well, I'm for XXXX anyway, so that's that. Get curious, do some research, people!

Sent by John | 3:01 PM | 1-17-2008

Power to the machine!
Long live the machine!
Let the machine do my thinking!
Just pick a party and pull the lever!

That's what they want! Instead, we should keep the politicians guessing.
Make them listen to your concerns.
That's what their supposed to do!

If your picking a candidate based on their label, your being stupid!

Sent by Harold | 3:04 PM | 1-17-2008

My whole middle school class tried I think that it's really ironic that almost all the democrats in my class matched with Dennis Kucinich. Kids who state that they are Republican got Democrat candidates, no, I don't think the sites work.But they make you think about who you're supporting. You think about why you support that person, instead of jumping all the other candidates and deciding on just one.

Sent by Sheri Schwert | 3:16 PM | 1-17-2008

This was helpful. I have been thinking that I wanted to vote for Obama. I took three quizzes and Obama tied for first (with Edwards) and then finished on top for my other two. Nice to have my initial gut feel somewhat validated (and that no Republicans ever finished anywhere near my top 3).

Sent by maureen | 3:22 PM | 1-17-2008

I think the glassboth poll was the best designed of the lot. The glassboth poll addressed issues directly and allowed one to weight the importance up front. I thought it interesting with some of the other polls that one had to for example, agree with the concept of gun control to even complete the poll. Some didn't even address the drug war. Glassbooth says I ought to like Mr. Kucinich. As usual, the candidates I find best don't stand an ice cube's chance in Hell.

Sent by Warren | 3:24 PM | 1-17-2008

I took two of the posted tests (skipping the Washington Post test, which omits too many candidates). My results were exactly what I would have expected. I'm wondering just how well folks know their own positions and WHY they hold them if their alleged "favorite" candidate is so much of a surprise.

Sent by Bill | 3:28 PM | 1-17-2008

I tried out all the sites listed on the blog, plus one my mother sent me last year. Two of them agreed but one actually produced someone from the opposite party who I would never ever consider! Sometimes the choices lacked subtlety, and other times the responses were so similar that I was essentially choosing randomly.

Sent by Howard Granok | 3:36 PM | 1-17-2008

I was very glad to hear as part of the on-air discussion the comment that we don't vote for our candidate just on issues, but also on qualities.

I would like to add one other criterion that is particularly important in this election, which I call, for want of a more description phrase, TYPE of leadership. In the Democratic debate in Nevada this week, Clinton described her type as that of a CEO who would run the government and Obama described his as that of a visionary. I am convinced that Obama's is the type that is needed in the new, globalized world we live in. But I would add that this discussion needs to go deeper to include the importance of who a president chooses to run the various departments of the federal government. A visionary leader must, and can, complement his/her strengths with good executive types, but must also know how to oversee their work and have specific skills on how to hold them accountable.

Sent by Isabelle Healy | 3:40 PM | 1-17-2008

I am going to have my kids (14, 12, and 11) take the glassbooth quiz. It will add quality to our dinner table talk leading up to Super Tuesday and beyond. I took all of the quizzes and came up with similar results each time ... it makes me curious about how little difference there really is between the top 3 dems ... so I guess we really are voting on style since the substance is so consistent.

Sent by voter in Arkansas | 3:47 PM | 1-17-2008

I took each of the candidate quizzes and three out of four pointed me toward my favorite candidate, Obama. (The fourth quiz said I leaned toward Hillary Clinton.) Overall, I am not surprised by my results as I've already sided with Obama with Clinton as my second vote.

Sent by M.L. Ayers | 3:54 PM | 1-17-2008

I have taken maybe four of these polls/surveys and each time I find that the subjectivity of my answers are seemingly as weighty as the candidates' position. For example, in the Washington Post match I found that by just slightly modifying the strength of my position, say, from "somewhat important" to "moderately important", the end result would be a new candidate! So, while I find them interesting and entertaining I would not select a candidate based upon their results.

Sent by John Peery | 4:01 PM | 1-17-2008

I am a Kucinich supporter and that reflected in my polls.
I think an issue here is the media exclusivity of the top 3, such that Kucinich does not have the same level of exposure to the general public, who only access information through the corporate controlled media. The media paints the picture it wants you to see. I have also been disappointed with NPR radio's absence of coverage of Kucinich, who has always voted against the illegal Iraq war and who is the middle class "Everyman" pro-worker candidate.

It takes time and effort to explore outside the box, vs. being spoon fed on these candidates. One has to go deeper than judging by appearance or popularity. I invite you to visit Dk's site:

Sent by Renee | 4:02 PM | 1-17-2008

The Minnesota, Washington Post, and Glassbooth "match quizzes" were easy to use. My candidate is Kucinich. The first two matched me with Kucinich, the Glassbooth with Gravel.

Sent by Elinor Holmes | 4:14 PM | 1-17-2008

When I first did it, I really didn't do it seriously, Then I did it again seriously and it came out with the same results even though the numbers were different. After having been a member of the Republican Party since I was 18 (I'm 47 now,) just just recently switched to the Democratic Party. I've been flipping back and forth between Hillary and Obama, and never really thought about Edwards. After doing this, and coming out with Edwards on top (Edwards 20, Clinton 19, Obama 18,) I looked at the views, then checked out the candidates and what they have to really say for themselves, their records, then I realized that Edwards will get my vote here in California. If I vote for the other two, I will be doing it because it is the popular thing, but if I vote for Edwards it will be because he stands for what I believe in and that is the thing that really matter to me.

This beats what the Polls have to say, as I shouldn't rely on what the polls say, but what my beliefs are.

Sent by Earl | 5:37 PM | 1-17-2008

//Bob just mention Ron Paul as a candidate that you may agree with 95% of the time but there is something that is just a deal breaker. (snip)

If you're referring to me, I wasn't the one who said that. I believe that was Ed's point.

Sent by Bob Collins | 6:08 PM | 1-17-2008

I tried out all 4 listed on the Talk of the Nation page and only 1 quiz linked me with the candidate I support. The MPR quiz had me tied with Sen. Edwards and Congressman Kucinich at 24% each while Sen. Clinton was a close 3rd with 23%. The Washington Post quiz had me scoring a 68 point match with Sen. Clinton, 41 points with Sen. Edwards, and 24 points with Sen. Obama. The USA Today "Candidate Match Game had my top 3 matches as Sen. Gravel, Sen. Dodd, and Sen. Edwards. Sen. Clinton was a close 4th, and since Dodd has since withdrawn I consider Sen. Clinton as my 3rd. And with the Glassbooth quiz I share an 86% similarity with Sen. Clinton.

I must say these quizzes are thought provoking in that they make me consider another way of looking at the candidates and deciding whether or not a candidate was right for you.

Sent by Cecile Carpenter | 6:11 PM | 1-17-2008

I think glassbooth was weakest in that I'm a big old bunnyhugger and went nuts with the environmental questions, but the Minnesota one forced me to look at some very fine tuned information which is also important, like the mortgage crisis, taxation and education. We can't save the earth if we're not housed and educated. What was shocking was how the Republicans are so invested in controlling our personal lives. Eeeeesh!

Sent by G.H. Waite | 7:28 PM | 1-17-2008

It does not disturb me a bit to see who agrees and disagrees with me on issues selected by others. It bothers me that a significant fraction of the electorate follows celebrity sound bites and hears mostly about the horse-race. It is also troubling that by the time primaries roll around to Oregon, many candidates will have dropped out, and the media may have called the election.

Sent by Rik | 7:49 PM | 1-17-2008

show today, wherin so many people seem surprised that Dennis Kucinnich is the Democrat with whom they most agree.

No real surprise, since Dennis has always been closer to the heart of the Democratic Party than most big name party leaders. And since his stands on the war, on impeachment, and on one or two other subjects that are his particular differences are what most Democrats really want, he is the odds on bet to fit best with democrats in such a pole. Had he better credentials on being able to make those positions stand up through Congress, he would be the best candidate for the job. Hillary isn't the best candidate because she holds the best political positions, she is the best candidate because she is most likely to get the most of those positions written into the law of the land. Its a compromise. Richardson was perhaps the most electable. Obama has the strongest message. Hillary is most likely to succeed once elected. Edwards may have some of the best positions.

Dennis is just the plain old Democratic Party.

Sent by Earl Moreo | 8:41 PM | 1-17-2008

I listened with amusement to the callers who took tests and discovered they were in agreement with Ron Paul or Dennis kucinich, but could not support them because they lacked charisma.

This supports my contention that many voters use their libido not their intellect in choosing a candidate. I can understand this as I voted for Carter in 1980, but Reagan won me over in 1984. Now after seeing what the "free-traders" Bush/Clinton/Bush teams have done to this country's industrial base and middle class; VIVA Ron Paul!! You folks do realize that Jeb will be running against Hillary in the next round of "Family Fued"? To thine own self be true- REAL FREEDOM. The only wasted vote is a vote that violates my principles!

Sent by Edward Gonfindini | 11:10 PM | 1-17-2008

I see that Isabelle gets it and said just what my point is. And the point was made in the last sentence of the show without time for anyone to reflect on it.

For the quiz, leadership might be tested by asking:
- do you want the president to be so convinced they are doing the right thing, they act without gaining the support of the people because the people might not be ready?
- do you want a leader to get everyone behind him before he acts or asks Congress to act, taking time to bring those opposed, especially protesters, into agreement

The other way to ask the question is:
- did the supreme court show leadership in roe v wade by getting ahead of the people (consensus was growing for legal abortion - the court thought it was speeding it up)?
- did the supreme court show leadership in dred scott (the court was maintaining the status quo political deal between north and south)?

- was LBJ your kind of leader when he strong armed the civil rights bill knowing he would turn southern democrats against democrats?
- was LBJ your kind of leader when he lied the US into war because he didn't trust people to support war?
- was Nixon your kind of leader when he went to china?
- was Nixon your kind of leader when he lied to expand the war?
- was JFK your kind of leader when he proposed to go to the moon, and then let Congress pass the laws to put others in charge of doing it?
- was MLK your kind of leader in his "I have a dream" speech which didn't call for a specific law?

Sent by mulp | 12:51 AM | 1-18-2008

I don't think these can really work because just because a candidate says they stand for something doesn't mean they really do. I believe the government should stay out of our personal lives as much as possible and so does the Republican party but yet they want to tell you who you can marry (same-sex marriage) and tape your telephone conversations. Republicans say they are fiscally conservative but yet they helped us created the biggest deficit ever.

Sent by Lisa Toms | 5:21 PM | 1-18-2008

If I could vote I would vote for Obama but, to my suprise not one of the candidate tests matched me with him.

Washington Post: Edwards

Minnesota Public Radio: Gravel

Glass Booth: Kucinich

USA Today: Edwards

At first I was shocked with the results but, it does make sense because they are all idealists not realists. I wouldn't vote for any of them if I could, mostly because I do not think they could be elected and also because I do not think they could do what they promise.
I'm 15 - female

Sent by Julie | 7:21 PM | 1-18-2008

I don't understand why folks say that Dennis Kucinich doesn't have magic. They obviously have NOT heard him speak. (since he has gotten very little legitimate coverage by the MSM).

He is a very dynamic speaker. He is well spoken, intelligent and inspiring.

If you just took the time to watch him speak. Go to You Tube...

Sent by Caelidh | 4:36 PM | 1-19-2008

It worked. I agreed with Dennis Kucinich the most, almost 100%. Then Edwards. Then Obama. Really thrilled I did not match Clinton.

Sent by Christy | 5:20 PM | 1-19-2008

When this story aired I did not hear anyone mention how changing one answer--opposing the death penalty--can change one's match of candidate.

I support Obama but was matched with Chris Dodd in an online survey when I checked that I opposed the death penalty. Sadly, I don't believe anyone could win the national election by openly opposing this barbaric and pointless practice. The US should join with its allies across the world and end the death penalty.

Sent by Martha Witwer | 3:16 PM | 2-20-2008