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That's strong stuff

30 November 2011

As part of a partnership with the University of Southern California beginning in 2010, Project Vote Smart offers student research internships to USC undergraduates during the fall and spring semesters, in exchange for college credit hours. Hear from one of those students, David Hernandez, as he describes his experience as an intern with our Political Courage Test department.

As a junior majoring in both Political Science and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California (USC), Project Vote Smart offered me a unique and rewarding internship experience this past semester, and one that has definitely shown me the true meaning of non-partisanship. 

 While interning with Vote Smart, I specifically worked as a presidential and congressional research intern, where I researched candidates and elected officials' stances on important issues facing the nation. Specifically, my researched involved combing through the backgrounds and public records of the presidential candidates and also congressional incumbents for the state of Massachusetts and also parts of California. This sometimes tedious research process is all in the name of transparency, as Vote Smart attempts to answer important issue-related questions for those candidates who chose not to provide these answers themselves. Due to declining response rates for the Test, in 2010, Vote Smart finally said “enough is enough,” and decided to dedicate time and resources to researching and providing the likely answers to Test questions, backed by the candidates' own words and actions regarding said issue. This is where myself, and the research program at USC comes in. 

In addition to the professional research experience I gained, Vote Smart offers an incredible working environment where staff, interns, and volunteers work side-by-side, and equally reinforce a “check your politics at the door” type of atmosphere. Of course, learning to operate from a non-partisan framework here at Vote Smart has allowed me to look at American politics through a different lens. Through my research assignments and then actual use of the information Vote Smart provides, I unintentionally walked away with a better understanding of where I, myself, stand on a number of issues. It was because I wasn't learning what I already knew or was being fed information that purposely reinforced my beliefs, rather I was forced to see both sides of the coin. That's strong stuff.

In regards to my education at USC, Vote Smart has allowed me to sharpen and define my own interests and beliefs as a political science student in the Unruh Institute of Politics.  It has given me a better perception on how I wish to best pursue my career in, law, politics, and public policy after graduation.  Lastly,  Vote Smart has made me realize my role as a positive agent of information. This whole experience has challenged me as a student, citizen, voter and intellectual.

For more information on internship opportunities with Project Vote Smart, contact us at or by calling 1-888-VOTE-SMART. 

Project Vote Smart has been made possible by over 100,000 liberal and conservative fellow citizens. No funds are accepted from lobbyists, corporations, unions or others that support or oppose candidates. As a volunteer-based organization, Vote Smart will survive on individual small contributions or not at all. For more information on how you can become a Vote Smart Member, please visit us here.  

Related tags: blog, California, interns

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