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Voter guide uses wisdom of masses

"Presidential Guidester" site matches your views with what the public (by state) thinks about Kerry, Bush and Nader.

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By Ed Frauenheim
Staff Writer, CNET News.com

Still not sure who deserves your vote for president? Among the Web sites to offer advice is one that trusts the American public to clarify where the candidates stand on various issues.

Presidential Guidester lets you fill out a survey to find out which candidate best matches your criteria, which can include positions on topics like terrorism and health care.

The site, which asks you to enter how strongly you feel about a particular issue and to name your state of residence, is one of a number of Web resources along these lines. But it may be the only one that uses a survey of the general U.S. population to assess where John Kerry, George Bush and Ralph Nader fall on the issues.

Perceptions of those polled, rather than candidates' campaign literature, governs the Presidential Guidester matching process. So, although both Kerry and Bush might say the economy is important, the site seems to give Kerry an edge on the topic. For instance, if your only criteria is that the "economy is extremely important," the tool says you match up with Kerry 44 percent, Bush 38 percent and Nader 18 percent. (If you live in a state where Nader's not on the ballot, you match up with Kerry 54 percent compared to Bush at 46 percent.)

The site is sponsored by Decidia Decision Systems, in partnership with polling firm Zogby International, which surveyed 6,386 Americans in an online poll. The project is "completely objective" and "nonpartisan," said Jarred Kirsch, vice president of marketing at Decidia.

From the time the site was launched Oct. 21 until this past weekend, some 202,000 visitors have used the system, Kirsch said. Filling out all the possible criteria takes about 15 to 20 minutes, he said.

Decidia plans to release more "Guidesters" in the upcoming months, particularly for the holiday shopping season.

The U.S. public isn't only resource for trying to understand the candidates. Presidential Guidester also allows you to use viewpoints from various special-interest groups, such as the American Conservative Union and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, when matching your views against perceptions of a candidate.

Kirsch said Presidential Guidester initially intended to include positions straight from the candidates. The campaigns, however, did not respond to its requests for information last week.

Besides allowing voters to benefit from the wisdom of the masses, the site is flexible, Kirsch said. "They can get a score after answering one question or after they go through the entire decision tree," he said.

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