A a week ago I was on the playground at a local school with Elli and ended up chatting about politics with the other parent there. Our conversation was really interesting because it outlined some real differences in how people go about choosing who to vote for. The other parent was going to vote for Rob Ford for mayor because one time he called up Ford to complain about the city workers taking too long to repair his yard after some work was done there and Ford got it fixed quickly. He was not interested in all of the issues that plague Ford like incompetence, cluenessness, and brushes with the law among others. He seemed to think it was clear that if someone is willing to help you when you call him that he must be the best candidate for mayor and I felt like that particular attribute was nearly useless for figuring these things out.
When I vote for a person or party I try very hard to look at the big picture. What are they going to do for the country/city/province, do their long term policies make sense, do they understand what is necessary to make things run smoothly? I suspect that most voting decisions are not made this way at all though as they end up being based on who your friends are voting for, what radio stations say about the candidates, what the newspapers report, which party your parents always voted for and other similar factors. One big thing that must swing a ton of votes is a singular experience that creates a powerful emotional connection to a party or candidate. In this case the other parent obviously was really frustrated at the city workers and Ford helped him so regardless of any other consideration he wants his good friend to win; he doesn't know anything significant about the other candidates and has no reason to go hunting for information since he already knows who he wants to win.
Following the logic that you really should find out a lot of information about a candidate before voting may actually end up leading you to not vote at all. I have had people try to get me to vote in elections before and I argued that I didn't actually know enough about it to make an informed choice. In every case they immediately responded that it was important for me to vote even if I didn't know who to vote for because just getting out was a big part of citizenship in a democracy. I disagree with that sentiment. Getting out to vote is important if you actually know who you want to win and have good reasons for why they would be better than the opposition. Getting out to vote just to pick the same party you always do or to support whoever you happen to have a tenuous positive emotional association with has no benefit aside from making it harder for new or fringe groups to get votes, which you may or may not like.
I will actually be getting out to vote in the mayoral race for Toronto this time around. Normally I don't actually know enough to think my vote is an informed one so I stay away but this time my strategy of "Vote for whoever is winning that isn't Ford" is informed and important. It isn't a particularly idealistic viewpoint but it is the optimal one from where I stand.