Just four years ago (is that possible?), many of us were watching with interest as the Obama campaign used social media to spread its message on the viral Web. This time around, mobile has become a big player, and the election season of 2012 is spawning a number of mobile apps you can use to stay in touch with the campaign trail no matter where you roam. This article spotlights a few of the more popular apps available now.
1: PolitiFact Truth-O-MeterThe PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter is one of my favorites, available for iPhone, Android, and Blackberry users. If you don't have one of these phones, however, you can navigate to the site using your phone's Web browser or download the RSS feed so you can fact-check the latest sayings by your favorite (or not) candidates. Each major statement is weighed against the facts and given a rating ranging from True and Mostly True to False and Pants on Fire! You can also check the Truth Index and Report Card to see how consistent the candidate is with factual statements over time. The interface is clean and easy to navigate, showing a graphic of the rating and providing a link to more information that backs up the rating given (Figure A).
You can check out PolitiFact's Truth-O-Meter on the Web or on your iPhone, Android, or Blackberry Playbook.
2: Political PollsIf you want to keep pace with the pundits and have your own access to the various polls quoted by just about everyone, check out Political Polls. This Windows Phone app aggregates polling results from major polling firms that track American public opinion on political and consumer issues (Figure B).
Political Polls aggregates poll data from a number of sources and makes it available on your Windows Phone.
I did find that the level of detail and sourcing was uneven among the different categories. For example, you can tap into Pew Research and get to poll results (which even displays charts for some polls). But in other areas, like Election 2012, the entries give polling summaries without attributing them to the larger research source. So if you're just curious and want a few facts to toss around the dinner table, this is a fun app; if you need to back up your data with credible sources, you may need something a little meatier.
Politico.com is one of the top-rated political blog sites on the Web today, and you can get mobile apps for Android, iPhone, and Blackberry to give you anywhere access to posts, videos, and more. POLITICO offers several apps: The main POLITICO app gives you all the trending stories, POLITICO PLAYBOOK enables you to receive content on hot happenings in Washington from columnist Mike Allen, and POLITICO HUDDLE tells you specifically what's unfolding on Capitol Hill.
If you want to know how your representatives are voting on specific issues in the House and Senate, get information about the latest bills and laws, and see what's happening on the floor as it occurs, you may be interested in the Congress app, available from the nonprofit, nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation. Sunlight produces three versions of the app: Real Time Congress is available in the iTunes App store, Congress is in the Windows Phone Marketplace, and the Congress Android app is available from -- you guessed it -- the Android App store
Congress is an app from the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation that helps you get the latest House and Senate news on your smartphone.
5: AP Mobile app
Finally, publishers are going mobile in droves, so chances are that you can sign up for the political newsfeeds of your favorite media outlets. The New York Times, CNN, and the Washington Post all have their own versions. And if you want to collect it all in one handy spot, you can use an app like the AP Mobile app to grab headlines on the run -- for free.
Katherine Murray is a technology writer and the author of more than 60 books on a variety of topics, ranging from small business technology to green computing to blogging to Microsoft Office 2010. Her most recent books include Microsoft Office 2010 Plain & Simple (Microsoft Press, 2010), Microsoft Word 2010 Plain & Simple (Microsoft Press, 2010), and Microsoft Word 2010 Inside Out (Microsoft Press, 2010).