Coinciding with the first presidential debate of many over the next year and a half that airs tonight, MSNBC has placed an interesting new feature on their website. The major party players who have formally flung their hats into the ring are available for numerical rating.

What’s so special about this? Polls are tricky beasts. Intentionally or unintentionally, they’re born liars. Depending on how a question is phrased, whether or not the answers are multiple choice, how large of a data pool the pollers plan on culling, and when a question is asked are all unavoidable issues that sway the credibility of traditional poll results.

MSNBC has made an interesting new model utilizing online video content that makes for better polling and provides a layman’s education on the candidates along the way. On Rate the Candidates, viewers are given a set of video clips where candidates discuss their policies, histories, and plans for the future before submitting ratings on each one.

This is pretty cool. Yes, it’s another unreliable news site poll that isn’t scientific and isn’t all that meaningful, but it does have the added bonus of informing voters on specific elements pertinent to each campaign rather than just sampling knee-jerk reactions based on the headlines of the day.

Many people know the differences between the war resolution models of Obama, Clinton, and Edwards, but most don’t. Even less know about Dennis Kucinich’s plan. (…who is Dennis Kucinich?) Adding video content is a great way of changing that, rather than polling the uninformed on whose policies are congruent with theirs. It’s one more example of what video content can do for traditional media in creative hands.

Watch, learn, and rate at MSNBC. It’s more productive than tagging their Second Life headquarters with graffiti.

And don’t forget to watch the Democratic primary debates on the network’s traditional television channel at 7:00PM EST, starring Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, Barack Obama, and Bill Richardson.

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