I think it makes a big difference whether you're talking about national, state or local elections (or the equivalent if you're not in the US). On the local level, often the candidates will have definitive positions on specific local issues that are pretty clear-cut. Whether to increase zoning for businesses downtown, whether to allow or restrict fracking, whether to abolish the local curfew. With these sorts of things it's often fairly easy to figure out which candidate aligns most closely with the way you think, and how putting that candidate into office will affect your daily life.
As you climb up the ladder, though, I agree that politics can end up obscuring much of the link between putting the person in office and how it will touch you personally. And I'd also agree that there's more and more horseshit as you go up the mountain, to the point where it can get kind of hard to distinguish what positions a candidate actually cares about, versus which positions they're espousing just because a poll or a focus group tells them that that's the way to win.
For the upcoming presidential elections in the United States, I've been following the candidates pretty closely on both sides, just because I enjoy politics as sort of a spectator sport. For someone in the US who's trying to make a decision without investing that amount of time and effort, I'd offer one potential shortcut:
Look at the last dozen or so major Supreme Court decisions. See which ones you agree with and which ones you disagree with. For the ones you agree with, look at which justices voted on "your" side. If you tend to agree with the decisions made by Roberts, Thomas, Alito and Scalia, then you probably ought to vote Republican in the next presidential election. If you tend to agree with the decisions made by Sotomayor, Ginsberg, Breyer and Kagan then you probably ought to vote Democrat in the next election.
Reason being, there are very likely to be several court openings in the next four to eight years, and the party that holds the White House gets to name the replacement judges (with Senate approval). Supreme Court decisions can have a very direct and profound effect on the lives of everyone in the country, in some cases far more than legislation passed by Congress. Think of things like marriage equality, constitutionality of Obamacare, Citizens United campaign funding, abortion rights, etc. It is an almost certainty that many equally impactful decisions will be made over the next eight years, and the person who is chosen to be president next will, indirectly, have a huge influence over which way these decisions come out.
Here are helpful links for looking at the major Supreme Court cases in 2014 and 2015:http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/06/19/us/major-supreme-court-decisions-in-2014.htmlhttp://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/us/major-supreme-court-cases-in-2015.html
Note how often the justices named above tend to vote in blocs. This isn't evidence of collusion; it's a genuine difference of opinion and often strongly-held core beliefs.
For someone (not necessarily you) who wants to invest only a half hour or so between now and the presidential election, looking over those two pages and coming up with a decision based solely on this one issue is not a half-bad way to go. You can then safely ignore things until it's time to vote.