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A Vote Match is a short, online quiz (voting advice application) for voters to answer questions about their opinions and have them matched to the policies of the political parties. The idea is not to tell people how to vote. Rather, it is about informing people of the policies of the different political parties and to provide a starting point for further discussion and education. The UK version was developed by Unlock Democracy and based on Stemwijzer developed in The Netherlands by the Instituut Publiek en Politiek (IPP).
Since 1989, the Instituut Publiek en Politiek (IPP) in the Netherlands has produced Stemwijzer for all Dutch elections. It started life in a book format, but in recent years as been put online. With increased Internet access, word-of-mouth promotion and the acceptance of the Dutch political parties, Stemwijzer (stem means vote and wijzer has two meanings: wiser and indicator) has become a tradition in Dutch elections, but is controversial. Famously the current first minister Mark Rutte got an advice to vote for D66 after filling in the questionnaire and not his own party VVD. He has since refused to participate in any activities with Stemwijzer or to endorse it. Several alternatives have been launched to cater to special interests. Recently, 1 in 5 of the electorate used Stemwijzer to learn about the elections and help make up their minds whom to vote for. Using the Stemwijzer does not seem to have much influence on the voting behaviour.
Unlock Democracy developed the first UK Vote Match for the 2008 London Mayoral and assembly elections. Covering all of the candidates for Mayor of London, it was used by 50,000 people. Most national newspapers carried stories about it, and several civic organisations promoted it to their members, but the main marketing tool was peer to peer. Many bloggers linked to the site, and a lot of traffic came from users emailing the link to friends and family.
The UK Vote Match project was extended nationwide for the 2009 European elections. It covers all the main parties across the UK, and advises people about the parties standing in their area. It was launched on 11 May by Stephen Fry, and has received media coverage on Newsnight and the BBC news website.
The UK European Vote Match was developed as part of a wider EU project for the 2009 European Elections in which 11 member states participated.
How it works
The website is 30 policy statements relating to EU issues. The user enters which region they live in and then goes through the statements in turn, answering “agree” “disagree” or “neutral”. After responding to each statement, they then have the chance to say which policy areas are particularly important to them and which ones are not so important. Finally, they are able to select which parties they would consider voting for (all are automatically selected).
The results screen ranks the political parties in order of which was the closest match to the user’s answers. It also provides a breakdown of where all the parties stand on each statement, along with links to the party’s website and other websites where the issues are debated in detail.
How it is developed
The British version was developed by Unlock Democracy and was modelled closely on the Dutch system, with the parties themselves answering the questions and the most controversial statements being chosen for the final application.
Vote Match is developed in several stages. Firstly workshops with political party members, academics and members of civic groups were held to brainstorm ideas of issues relevant to the European elections.
The next step was to turn these ideas into viable statements for inclusion on a long list. Careful attention is paid to the wording of the statements so that they are not leading, not full of jargon, and completely unbiased. This left a long list of about 100 statements.
These statements are then sent out to the political parties, who respond to the statements in line with party policy. One all the parties have completed this it is possible to see which are the most controversial between all of the parties.
The long list is then cut down to the 20-40 most controversial statements which form the quiz.