The United States political climate is more divisive than ever, and many people have backed away from politics as a result. The fear of offending other people has caused many people over the past few years to default to the saying: "I'm just not very political." However, it is important to stay up-to-date and involved in politics. If you want to get more involved in politics, here are some easy ways to become a more informed and more active citizen.
1. Check the news daily.
In this age of modern technology, it is possible to get your news from a countless amount of sources. Whether you prefer print newspapers, phone applications, or websites, you can find the most recent news articles and current events with extreme ease.
In our current political climate, a lot of people intentionally choose not to check up on current events because they find the reports to be upsetting. However, no matter how angry or upset the news makes you, it is important to always stay informed. Too many citizens in the United States intentionally or unintentionally are uninformed about political issues and political events. Because the United States is a democracy, our government functions as a result of the participation of an informed electorate. Our country only works as it should when citizens make a conscious effort to be informed and involved. Checking the news every day does not require much time, effort, or money, but it is an essential part of participating in politics.
2. Read or watch multiple news sources.
In addition to checking the news daily, it is important to consider the potential biases or shortcomings of your news sources. While the goal of reporting may be to write about political topics without any sort of bias, this is virtually impossible. Every person has inherent biases that we carry with us, and we tend to analyze information in a way that includes these biases.
Though you may have never considered this before, think about where you choose to get your news. Do you tend to avoid or solely watch Fox News? Your media decisions say a lot about your political leanings, primarily because of a psychological phenomenon called "confirmation bias." Confirmation bias is defined by Britannica as "the tendency to process information by looking for, or interpreting, information that is consistent with one's existing beliefs." While we do not intend to make decisions or form opinions by seeking out information that already aligns with our preconceived biases, people tend to do so accidentally. One simple way to be a more actively involved member in our democracy would be to seek out news from multiple sources. Instead of only reading the New York Times, for example, Democrats should try to also watch Fox News or read the Wall Street Journal. Getting news from a variety of sources will ensure that you see more than one perspective. For more information on the political polarization of news outlets—including a helpful diagram showing the ideological placement of different media outlets' audiences—check out this article from the Pew Research Center.
3. Vote in local elections and primaries.
Many Americans only vote in presidential elections. In fact, the 2018 midterms had the highest voter turnout for a midterm election on record at 49.6% of the voting eligible population. Every vote counts, and showing up to vote at all elections—not just presidential elections—ensures that your voice is heard. By staying informed about the candidates running for your local/state representatives and by voting for your choice, you can become more informed and increase your political involvement.