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Introducing the Issue Engine

at 01:51 PM ET, 08/07/2012


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Which presidential candidate do you agree with on the issues most important to you?

The Issue Engine is a place to learn where the presidential candidates stand and choose which candidate better represents your views. Our hope is that you take time to explore a few of the 18 most important issues of the election: Abortion, Afghanistan, Economy, Education, Energy, Environment, Foreign Policy, Government Spending, Gun Control, Health Care, Immigration, Iran, Jobs, Medicare, Military Spending, Same-sex Marriage, Social Security, and Taxes.

Here is a breakdown of the moving parts that go into Issue Engine:


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Facebook endorsements: After learning about the positions, we encourage readers to endorse a candidate using Facebook. By clicking on our endorse button, we prompt you to log in to Facebook and connect with our app. By connecting to the app and endorsing, you post your endorsement (and your optional reasoning behind your endorsement) on your Facebook wall according to your privacy settings. Take care in choosing your privacy settings, which can be adjusted for the entire app when you connect and on individual posts after you have posted your endorsement.

If you explain your reasoning in a comment, we also post a copy of your reasoning with your name and Facebook photo to the Issue Engine page for that issue.

You’ll also notice that once you’re logged-in, we also display who among your friends has endorsed a candidate. These are revealed according to your default privacy settings in Facebook.

Developer Leslie Passante created a custom Facebook OpenGraph“action for this to allow readers to “endorse” a candidate. This is similar to the various other actions you might see in your news feed like the “listen” for Spotify or “read” in the WP Social Reader.


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Where you stand: On the right side, we help you track your endorsements on the issues. We also give you national polling data to help compare where you stand to America at large. These polls show who Americans trust more to do a better job on each issue. See the specific title of the poll, percentages, and date by rolling over each graph. Poll results are from Post-ABC polls among registered voters unless otherwise noted.

Candidate statements: As part of learning about the candidates, we present statements from President Obama and Mitt Romney. Many of these are from speeches given by the two candidates. So far, we have ingested 568 transcripts, which are broken into 12,211 statement chunks. We looked for remarks going back to Jan. 17, 2010.

You might notice that Obama has far more remarks than Romney. This is because he gives more public speeches and the White House distributes his remarks more frequently. So far, Obama has 11,226 statements and Romney has 985. Also note that many statements made by the president and the former governor don’t apply to one of our campaign issues. At launch, only about half of the statements we’ve ingested do.


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The Issue Engine scrapes transcripts from the candidate’s Web pages. After we’ve saved a transcript, we break it down into statements -- usually a paragraph -- and then feed those statements into Washington Post Lab’s Trove personalized news service to apply concepts and categories. Finally, we map these Trove concepts and categories to a set of campaign issues that editors believe are crucial to the election.

Later this week, the Washington Post will release access to the API and distribute the code that powers the Issue Engine. Until then, if you have questions about how the Issue Engine works, send us e-mail at opensource@washingtonpost.com.

Also note that we have included our curated Fact Checker statements and their corresponding Pinocchios. Obama has had 28 statements fact checked and Romney has had 36. For statements that have not been fact checked, you may request a fact check.

Issue Engine was built by:

Ryan Kellett, National Digital Editor
Leslie Passante, Embedded developer
Jeremy Bowers, Embedded developer
Sarah Sampsel, Design Director

And special thanks to former Digital Editor Amanda Zamora for laying the groundwork for this project.

 
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