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In 2020, it will be crucial to remain informed, civil

So 2020 arrives. A year with a number that seems to signal its significance — the start of a new decade, with a pivotal national election only 10 months away.

Will 2020 bring clarity for the future, as in 20/20 vision? Or do the double numbers of 2020 reflect the deep divisions in our nation at this time?

In the next few months, campaigns for state and national offices will ramp up, as will the rhetoric. Indeed, given the current polarized political climate, this election cycle might be the most acrimonious in recent memory.

While it might become tempting to tune out the noise and negativity, it will be crucial that voters try to remain engaged, informed and aware of what is at stake in this election year.

News and coverage should be drawn from multiple sources to get as balanced a view as possible. Claims should be fact-checked, even from candidates you might favor.

Most of all, be aware of the misinformation that has become a weapon online in politics. We know outside influences are trolling the internet, looking to shape the elections. Don’t let yourself be manipulated by accepting as truth a post that appears on Facebook or Twitter — or, worse, automatically repost what might be a false claim so it can gain more traction and seeming credence.

It’s natural, perhaps even preferable, to be enthusiastic about the candidates you deem worthy of your vote. But this shouldn’t be a blind allegiance. Take the time to question, to research where they stand to the issues important to you before making that choice on the ballot.

Finally, as the Mining Journal in Marquette noted in a recent editorial, this election needs to remain civil — more talking, less shouting.

A study published in June 2018 by the Pew Research Center — a nonpartisan group that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world — asked 5,035 U.S. adults to distinguish between five factual statements and five opinionated statements.

For example, 24% of Democrats and 33% of Republicans surveyed thought the statement “Government is almost always wasteful and inefficient,” was factual.

In fact, the survey showed news consumers are more likely to perceive statements they hear or see as factual when those statements appeal to their own political side, even if those statements are actually opinions, the Mining Journal stated.

“Both Republicans and Democrats show a propensity to be influenced by which side of the aisle a statement appeals to most,” the study states. “At this point, then, the U.S. is not completely detached from what is factual and what is not. But with the vast majority of Americans getting at least some news online, gaps across population groups in the ability to sort news correctly raises caution.”

Consider this assertion when coupled with a second study in 2019, which shows many Americans believe that political debate has become less “respectful, fact-based and substantive.”

The 2019 probe shows that 85 percent of Americans see the current political discourse as less respectful and more negative.

“We understand that there is not a simple solution to these issues,” the Mining Journal concluded. “But we believe fact-based civil discussion of the issues can be achieved one person at a time.”

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