As voters, knowing which candidate best represents our belief system is not always self-evident, no matter how much we read about the candidates. That’s where Glassbooth.org, a new nonprofit, comes in. According to Ian Manheimer, Executive Director, Glassbooth finds innovative ways to help voters access political information. Unlike commentary from pundits, news reports, or editorials, Glassbooth is dedicated to acting in the public’s interest alone. Take Glassbooth’s online quiz. You might be surprised at what you learn!
KJK: From a personal standpoint, why did you start this nonprofit?
IM: In today’s polarized political environment, people are very sensitive as to where they receive political information. Our service depends on the trust of our users, and to build this trust we incorporated as a nonprofit. Everything about us is public and transparent: who gives to us, how we score the candidates, our scoring algorithm. It’s all in an effort to build more trust with our user base.
KJK: How is Glassbooth different from other nonprofits that educate voters?
IM: The principles of Glassbooth have been the foundation of our unique success. We believe that education plus opportunity equals a vibrant democracy. We are marketers and designers; we are researchers and educators. We uniquely understand the problems of democracy today in America and have the creativity and insight into how to engage people in a 21st-century media environment. All this thought and theory has proven true with our first tool: glassbooth.org. It is an inviting process for self-exploration and education. We seek to replicate this success in other mediums and new ways.
KJK: Given that the pundits and pollsters continue to be wrong, what do you think this says about the average voter?
IM: To be honest, I don’t know much about how polls are conducted. I think pundits have been wrong only because they have been forced to make predictions they are not informed enough to make. It is a comment on current political discourse. The media is highly biased toward coverage of the “horse race” and what tactics are working. There is little substance into where the candidates actually stand on the issues. Producers fill news time with false predictions when they could be informing voters. This is the space that Glassbooth inhabits. We are filling the void that the media has vacated in providing hard information on the candidates’ platforms to voters in interesting ways.
KJK: How do you think citizens can work with and educate the community to increase access to political information?
IM: Get on the airwaves in your community. Use the Internet and promote the heck out of your product. The core lesson in political education is to always remain nonbiased. An informed democracy is a win for America regardless of party or politics.
KJK: What future initiatives are you planning for Glassbooth?
IM: We are going in three main directions now. First, we believe glassbooth.org is a model. In our first run, we applied it to the 2008 presidential election. We are working on a pilot program now to make it available for a local election. In the future, we plan to roll our model out into all different types of elections at the state and local level. Second, we are working on a way to engage people outside the context of elections. This will be not through attachment to candidates, but to the issues that move people, which don’t go away after November. And last, we are working on optioning Glassbooth into a television show. We basically take the mission of Glassbooth—to inform voters—and bring it to the TV space in a fresh and engaging way.