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Candidate Questionnaires and Voter Guides

Educating your members about where candidates stand on your priority issues is a critical part of your chamber’s advocacy work. It keeps business-related issues in the forefront during an election cycle and reminds members about the importance of voting for elected leaders who share their views. Issue-based candidate questionnaires and voter guides are effective tools for this purpose and are appropriate for 501(c)(3) organizations as long they are distributed purely for information, without regard for helping or hurting any particular candidate or party.

Some guidelines for candidate questionnaires include:
  • Distribute the same set of questions to all candidates (running for the same office) at the same time
  • Do not include leading questions or questions that hint at the ‘correct’ answer
  • Do not ask a candidate to pledge their support for a particular position or issue
  • Do not compare the candidate responses to your chamber’s view on an issue (for example, putting a thumbs up/thumbs down next to an answer)
  • Use open-ended questions: avoid yes/no, support/oppose, or multiple choice, all of which limit the candidate’s ability to explain an answer
  • Include questions on a broad range of issues that are important to your chamber and its members
  • Set a clear deadline for all responses (allow ample time for at least one round of follow-up with the candidates)
  • Consider setting a word limit for the answer to each question
  • Be sure to let the candidate know how you plan to use/publish the responses (for example, a printed voter guide, posted on your website, etc.)
Once you have collected the responses, follow these guidelines for preparing a voter guide:
  • Compile all responses and use the exact answers provided by the candidate without changes – no paraphrasing or editing
  • Publish all responses it the same format, font and size
  • Do not coordinate with any candidate or his/her staff on the questionnaire content
  • Some candidates may choose not to respond. If that is the case, you should still include their name on the voter guide and include phrasing such as ‘no response’ or ‘did not respond’
When distributing your chamber’s voter guide, it’s a good time to remind your members that your chamber is not endorsing or opposing any of the candidates. Sharing the results of a candidate questionnaire can also go hand-in-hand with a ‘get out the vote’ initiative, increasing your chamber’s influence as an alternative to a PAC or candidate endorsement program.

Below are some helpful resources about candidate questionnaires and voter guides:
  • Bolderadvocacy.org provides resources for nonprofit organizations navigating the rules of public policy and advocacy.
  • NonprofitVOTE.org provides nonpartisan resources to help nonprofit organizations integrate voter engagement into their advocacy programs.

Sample Candidate Questionnaires

(Please send us your samples and help add to this list.)

Voter Guides

Related Chamberpedia Pages



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Last Updated: 9/27/2017

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