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Website helps undecided voters choose

PresidentialGuidester.com polls voters, matches their positions with those of candidates

For those US residents still unsure which presidential candidate to vote for – and there appear to be quite a few who can't make up their minds even days before the election – there's a new web-based tool that can help voters match their positions to those of the major presidential candidates.

Decidia, a New York City company focused on search and decision-making software, has launched the Presidential Guidester site as a way to showcase its technology and help undecided voters choose a presidential candidate.

PresidentialGuidester.com uses a series of drop-down menus to poll users about issues important to them. For example, users can answer questions about whether the candidates' stances match their own on issues such as the war in Iraq, gun control, gay rights and the economy. After a user answers questions about the issues or candidate experience important to him, Presidential Guidester then rates the three major presidential candidates, Republican George Bush, Democrat John Kerry and Populist Ralph Nader, compared to the user.

If a user says he's against abortion choice and against gun control, he'll get a high Bush score. If he supports United Nations involvement in Iraq and opposes the USA Patriot Act, he'll score higher for Kerry or Nader.

Since the Presidential Guidester site launched October 21, about 12 special-interest sites have linked to it, including NARAL Pro-Choice America and the Interfaith Alliance, and about six large US newspaper sites began linking to it. In the first week of operation, about 200,000 people used the site, and about a third of them identified themselves as undecided in the presidential campaign, said Joe Chin, president of Decidia.

"It's almost acting as a magnet for undecided voters," Chin said. "It's an interesting tool. It's fun and educational, and (users) get to share their scores with friends."

The web-based system, powered with a combination of Java, Microsoft, and Decidia proprietary technology, includes support from polling firm Zogby International. Presidential Guidester uses data gathered in a Zogby International poll of 6,383 US residents to help voters find the candidate who is the best fit for their positions.

Decidia used the Zogby data to identify the top 27 issues that voters care about during this election. Decidia also incorporated information from eight special-interest groups that users can compare their views to.

Although the Interfaith Alliance hasn't tracked how many of its members have used Presidential Guidester, communications director John Lynner Peterson said it's a useful tool for voters. "We think it's important to try to engage voters in any way possible," Peterson said.

Users of the site can plug in their views on issues anonymously, allowing them to avoid possibly contentious political debates. "It's an easy-to-use tool that helps make comparisons with people that they might not be willing to do with someone on their block," Peterson said.


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