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Month: June 2016 - The Bank Teller

8 Ways to Participate in Politics

“We the people…” begins our Constitution. The founding principles of the United States were based on citizens’ civic engagement. However, getting involved in our democracy takes time and energy, and hey, who doesn’t already have enough on their plates these days?

Luckily, there’s a wide range of ways to participate in politics, from low to high effort. So rather than being a passive citizen, here are 8 ways you can have a voice.

1. Liking Something on Facebook

On social media, we all have a very simple way to voice our opinions on politics: a thumbs up, or on Twitter, a heart. This small act announces to the world what we think about something. And now, thanks to Facebook emotions, we have a multitude of ways to express ourselves! However, since liking and favoriting are so easy, they’re often called slactivism – activism’s lazy cousin. But maybe that thumbs up is a gateway to more actively taking a stand.

2. Signing a Petition

One name on a petition doesn’t accomplish much, but when you take the step to sign one, you’re showing your faith in the power of many voices in unison. Plus, you’re publicly attaching your name to a cause you care about, which takes a bit more hutzpah than liking something on Facebook. When petitions go viral, they can garner hundreds of thousands of signatures and spur real change. However, it’s pretty low-effort to sign a petition, thanks to the internet, so this democratic action is still pretty low on the spectrum.

3. Putting a Sticker on Your Car

Slapping a sticker on a vehicle seems like a small act, but for car purists, it can be a very meaningful step. Our cars are like an extension of ourselves, and considering how hard it is to remove sticker goo, it’s akin to getting a tattoo. (Maybe that’s why you still see Kerry or McCain stickers on the road…) The great thing about political car stickers, of course, is that they are highly visible as you traverse your corner of the world. When you’re at a red light, you can bet the guy in the SUV behind you is reading your message. And who knows? Maybe, just maybe, you’ll change his point of view. (But probably not.)

4. Writing Letters to/Calling Elected Representatives

You know you’re passionate about something when you feel compelled to write a letter or pick up the phone. While elected officials receive hundreds if not thousands of letters per day, words from constituents really are compelling. Especially if you take the time to write a thoughtful yet concise letter, your voice is more likely to be heard. There’s truth in the adage “the squeaky wheel gets the oil,” so reaching out to politicians is an effective way to have influence.

5. Participate in Rallies or Demonstrations

When you show up at a rally or demonstration, that means you took the effort to leave the house, brave the elements, and face the world to show your opinion. Bonus points if you make a sign! Of course, demonstrations are more effective when more people show up, but they can be very powerful in expressing public opinion, especially when they become big enough to attract the media’s attention.

6. Volunteering for OR contributing money to a party or candidate

We’re getting into the super dedicated realm! When you donate to a political party or candidate, you are putting your money where your mouth is. After all, they say “Money talks.” Even if you’re not donating a large portion of your paycheck, it is quite a leap to part with your hard-earned cash and give it to a cause or person you believe in.

If money talks, and time = money, then time talks, too. When you volunteer for a party or candidate, you are making a direct impact. After all, no candidate can win an election without help from other people. Whether you’re making calls, going door to door, entering voter data, or delivering yard signs, these tasks are a labor of love. You will be amazed at just how many different ways you can use your time and skills to help the candidate you support.

7. Attend a Meeting on Local Affairs

Especially during presidential campaign years, local politics can get overlooked, but your immediate community is where you can have the largest impact. We’re not sure anyone would call attending a town meeting “fun,” but when you take time out of your day or evening to participate and share your opinion, you’re showing that you really care about your community. Our system depends on people who are passionate enough to solve problems and make the world a better place.

8. Vote!

While President Obama is right – there ARE many things that are more difficult than registering to vote – it still takes time and effort not just to register but to actually get out to the polls. Otherwise, wouldn’t American voter turnout be 100% rather than dismally lagging behind other democracies? Even during this primary season, voters in some states faced many obstacles and long lines. So when you take time to research the candidates and issues (PoliticalBank can help!) and cast an educated ballot, well, you have just achieved the pinnacle of democracy. No matter who you are, someone before you fought hard for your right to vote, and when you exercise that right, you are making your voice count.

Main photo credit: Oldpicz

Presidential Candidate Google Image Results

If you were Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, or Bernie Sanders, would you choose the top picture or bottom picture above to represent your campaign?

You may have heard about the recent controversy sparked by the Google image search for “three black teenagers” versus “three white teenagers.” The troubling results raise questions about racial bias in society, and whether that is reflected or perpetuated by the media.

Here at PoliticalBank, we stumbled across a similar phenomenon involving Google images for the people seeking to be the leader of the free world: the three main presidential candidates. Simply looking at the cascade of top results, it’s easy to spot some key differences in the nature of the photos of Hillary ClintonDonald Trump, and Bernie Sanders right off the bat. The first thing that struck us is how much more frequently Hillary is shown smiling in her photo results vs. her competitors. So we decided to dig in and quantify these differences.

The Methodology

We analyzed the top 100 Google image search results for each candidate as of June 17th, categorizing the portrayal of each photo into one of five options:


A clear expression of passionate outrage, usually indicated by the angle of the eyebrows.



This is when the candidate has a pretty neutral expression, neither smiling nor upset and often when speaking or addressing an audience. Unfortunately, a photo taken at the wrong instant during a speech can capture a pretty weird face, so sometimes we had to choose between Serious and Unflattering, the last category.



A genuine smile, usually the kind that “reaches the eyes” and shows teeth.



This category was sometimes difficult to distinguish from Smiling, and while it could also be interpreted as simply showing confidence, we felt that this expression usually has more of a negative connotation involving condescension, haughtiness, or pride.



This is a broad category that includes a whole range of expressions that don’t show the candidates in a positive light, from alarmed to kooky to disappointed to bored.

Now, our study certainly wasn’t very scientific, but as a non-partisan organization, we strove to be as objective and fair as possible. If we were ever torn between two categories, we did a gut check purely on our reading of the expression. If debating between a positive or negative portrayal, we’d ask ourselves, “Would the candidate choose this as their main campaign photo?”

The Results

And here are the results of our study.


Hillary Clinton

Clinton’s photos showed anger far less frequently than Trump or Sanders. Perhaps that’s a reflection of how Clinton chooses to carry herself. There are many studies that show that angry women are viewed less favorably than angry men. This may go hand-in-hand with why her Google results show so many more smiling photos. After all, part of her platform – albeit a small one – is that she is a grandmother. However, many of her photos in the unflattering category show her taking smiles a little too far.

Clinton’s results also have the highest number of smirking photos, which is not very surprising considering that many people do not trust her; in a May New York Times/CBS News poll, 64% of voters said she is not honest or trustworthy. Media outlets seem to reinforce this perception by choosing to display smirking photos of her.

Donald Trump

Of Donald Trump’s top 100 Google image results, only two of them involve smiles. Of course, Trump has never really gone for a friendly or cuddly image. He also has the highest percentage of serious photos, reflecting his platform of being tough as well as, perhaps, his efforts to overcome his perceived lack of presidential qualifications; in a May Washington Post-ABC News poll, 58% rated Trump as not qualified to be president. Also, he has a fair number of smirking photos, which belies how many Americans find him to be arrogant.

Trump also has the highest number of unflattering photos, which likely reflects his low favorability; a June Washington Post-ABC News poll showed his favorable-unfavorable split at 29%-70%. In the same poll, Clinton’s split was 43%-55%.

Bernie Sanders

The photos for Sanders include the highest comparative number of angry photos, which we thought was surprising. However, Sanders does have a reputation for having a pretty far out there ideology; a Google search for “Sanders socialist” returns about 12,300,000 results. He’s also faced criticism for not conceding victory to Clinton.

Sanders has the lowest number of smirking photos, which may reflect how he is viewed as the most trustworthy of all the candidates; a March survey by Critical Insights showed that 54% of likely voters found him to be trustworthy. He also has the lowest number of unflattering photos. However, most of the ones in that category show a disappointed expression, which media outlets may have used to illustrate that he is trailing behind Clinton in number of delegates.

In Conclusion

We thought this issue was worth exploring because the images that appear online not only reflect voters’ perceptions, but can also help shape them. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, and the media has the power to emphasize or soften its reporting – or even data findings – based on the image they choose to accompany it.

Google image search results change a bit every day – want to see exactly which photos we analyzed and how we categorized them? Check it out, and tell us what you think via Twitter! Clinton, Trump, Sanders.

DISCLAIMER: With the exception of our pie charts, we claim zero ownership of any of the photos included in this post.