MTV has announced plans to release a new online competition related to the 2012 elections modeled after fantasy sporting leagues.
The game, Fantasy Election ’12, will allow friends to create teams of election candidates and compete against other fantasy teams to earn the most points.
What’s deceptive about this fantasy format is that candidates only receive points based on select criteria chosen by MTV, designed to measure each candidate’s political performance. Some of the criteria include:
-The amount of activity a candidate devotes to using the social media sites Facebook and Twitter as a means to connect with potential voters
-The civility of each candidate, based on the campaign ads aired by that candidate in different media markets, as measured by the Wesleyan Media Project.
-Whether or not a candidate is willing to take Project Vote Smart’s Political Courage Test, a questionnaire that measures the openness of candidates about their political stances on election issues.
-Willingness to disclose campaign funding, as recorded by the Center For Responsive Politics.
While MTV’s fantasy game is certainly a unique effort to increase student awareness in the upcoming election cycle, there are several issues with their chosen format that will bias the scoring of candidates.
For one, nearly all of these sources could be considered subjective in the material that they publish.
The ratings system employed by Politifact has an incredibly wide spectrum for interpretation, and also employs a certain degree of emotion in reporting the “truth” of a politician’s statement. When Politifact is checking the validity of certain statements by politicians, they assign ratings based on their “Truth-O-Meter”.
The system includes ratings such as “Mostly True”, “Mostly False” and “Pants on Fire,” which is reserved for statements deemed to be completely false, but are considered especially egregious in the eyes of their editors. MTV’s Fantasy Election ’12 will distribute points each time a candidate says something that is rated to be “True” by Politifact.
Monitoring the civility of each candidate is a concept that is laughable at best, as attack ads have been shown to be incredibly effective for influencing voters at the polls. Both Democrats and Republicans use attack ads, and polls have shown that 70 percent of the ads aired in the 2012 election cycle have been negative.
Finally, some of the point criteria are simply not relative to politicians from certain areas.
Candidates who come from states where fewer households have internet access may spend very little time on Twitter, compared to candidates who come from big cities.
There is also the issue that candidates who are more well known may be fact-checked a greater number of times compared to candidates who haven’t received as much media coverage. Statements made by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) will likely face a higher degree of scrutiny compared to statements by a backbencher like Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.).
MTV’s latest voter awareness project lacks the broad range of sources to be established as truly non-partisan. With a points system that is clearly biased in terms of distribution, a confusing system political fact-checking and a focus on issues such as civility and campaign spending, Fantasy Election ’12 is merely a means to create issues that are ultimately irrelevant to the prosperity of our country.