So, I've been using Politics for about two weeks now, and I've contributed some answers. To avoid making them subjective, I've tried to add references that back up what I'm saying. I know that Politics' version of the Back It Up rule isn't mandatory, but I find that relevant, appropriate citations make for more convincing (and accurate!) answers.

Looking back on my answers, I see that I've relied a decent amount on newspaper articles (including independent analyses, quotes from politicians, and accounts of events), with some primary source material, generally from an agency or legal code itself. It seems that there are plenty of other answers on the site that do the same.

I am, though, still new to the site, and so I'd like to ask this:

  • Are these sorts of references - specifically, newspaper articles - fine to use as the basis of answers?
  • Are there any other commonly-used or recommended references for Politics Stack Exchange?

There are no easy answers to this. I can back up even the most controversial claims with loads of citations, and people try to do this all the time.

Many politics questions aren't scientific questions and providing "hard evidence" like the Skeptics.SE site requires is impossible. Citations should of course be "trustworthy", but people seem to have wildly different views on which sort of citations are "trustworthy".

Wikipedia has been struggling with this problem as well and they have a lengthy help page on the topic, which can be summed up with this quote:

Source reliability falls on a spectrum: highly reliable sources, clearly unreliable sources, and many in the middle. Editors must use their judgement to draw the line between usable and unreliable sources.

Another important thing to remember is that a a lot of other questions can only be answered with expertise, rather than citations. This is where Good subjective, bad subjective applies:


There is a lot of value in that grey "expertise" area that sits between "citable claims" and "opinionated rant".

So, use your judgement. Politics is messy and there are a lot of shades of grey, and as a result, this site is messy and has a lot of shades of grey, too.

Are these sorts of references - specifically, newspaper articles - fine to use as the basis of answers?

Depending on the article and publication: yes, this is fine. Some articles report on a study or poll, and are useful to prove a claim. Other articles are more opinionated but are still useful to show a group's views on a topic for example.

But again, use your judgement; citing Alex Jones' Infowars will probably not be a good idea – citing the New York Times might be.

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