To further our understanding of the social issue of big money’s influence in political campaigns, interviews were conducted with stakeholders. Based on insights gained from these interviews, our problem was redefined, and then multiple possible solutions were proposed and evaluated to come to our final prototype solution. Ultimately, a web platform that provides a holistic approach to educating voters was deemed to be the most viable solution.
Stakeholder interviews served to provide insights and feedback from a wide range of individuals involved in politics and also from outsiders. This process allowed us to identify issues that are not directly related to our own stakes in the issue, and to obtain input that guided our solution ideation and prototyping. One group of stakeholders interviewed included people connected to politicians, both government officials’ staff members and people specializing in working on and running campaigns. These individuals, including Jamie Van Leeuwen (a key advisor to Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper), provided insights into the internal workings of campaign finance. Insights such as the necessity of money and the quid-pro-quo nature of large donations were common topics of interviews with individuals involved with political campaigns. These observations were also echoed in an interview with John Holcomb, a professor at the University of Denver and a lawyer with experience in campaign finance law.
Professor Holcomb also provided a valuable insight into the nature of why so much money is spent on political advertising. The majority of the U.S.’s voting population is disengaged voters who tend to not seek out political information. Therefore, candidates need to seek out ways of ensuring their messages are placed in front of voters. This insight proved valuable while generating possible solutions.
Specific questions and responses asked during the interviews are included in the ‘Stakeholder Interview Notes’ link and further analysis of the interviews is also detailed in more depth in the ‘Analysis of Stakeholder Interviews’ link provided on this page.
After the interviews were conducted and the insights gained from them analyzed, the problem needed to be redefined. Young voters, the millennial generation in particular, are highly uninvolved in the political process and lack reliable information sources about candidates. With young people shifting from using traditional forms of media such as television and newspapers to more internet based media, the way in which young voters learn about candidates is far different from past generations. Millennials are currently getting their news from online more than any other mode, with between 58 to 64 percent of millennials; of that 20 to 30 odd percent comes from social media (Dunn, 2017) . In fact, there are now as many eligible millennial voters as eligible baby boomer voters (Khalid, 2016). However, despite this fact the percentage of millennials who come out to vote is far lower than the percentage of baby boomers who vote; in the 2016 election just under 50% of eligible millenials voted compared to nearly 70% of baby boomers. While these numbers do represent an increase from the last presidential election for millennials and a decrease for baby boomers, the difference in voter turnout between the two groups is still massive (Geiger, 2017). The problem is compounded by the fact that voters are very uninformed. One striking statistic that demonstrates the ignorance of American voters in our political system is that just over one third of the voting population is able to name the three branches of federal government (Meyer, 2016).
There is a general lack of education about the American political process as a whole. This lack of education and the very low level of voter engagement that is associated with it results in the need for a solution that provides enough value to users in order for them to engage on their own volition.
Several possible solutions were generated to meet these needs, but ultimately a web platform was determined as the best way to meet the needs of our users and address the problems identified by our team and the stakeholders we interviewed. For other possible solutions see the ‘Ideation’ link; for a description of the design requirements see the ‘Design Criteria’ link.
Our solution is to design a holistic education and information web platform that combines political process education with information on campaigns and individual candidates. The platform will partner with social media sites (ideally Facebook) to increase traffic by exposing users to the educational aspect of the platform, directly combating the low rates of voter engagement that we identified. Users will then access the information side of the platform to access candidate information once they are educated voters and have a desire to become more politically informed.