I should vote for the Liberal Democrats, an internet quiz says. If I lived in Britain and was eligible to vote in the upcoming elections, that is. The problem with a site like whoshouldyouvotefor.com is of course that it pretends and maybe even tries to be objective although the format never can be. Which questions are asked and the way the questions are framed is an obvious way of creating bias, and then of course we have no idea what’s going on behind the scenes. How are the results calculated? Should we trust these people?

I wonder whether the popularity of silly internet quizzes will train people to not take this kind of service seriously, or whether our trust in the objectivity of machines will simplify future democracy by simply instating multiple choice quizzes instead of elections?

3 thoughts on “whoshouldyouvotefor.com

  1. Paul Lenz

    Hi

    I am one of the people behind WSYVF and just wanted to drop a quick reply.
    In terms of objectivity we have tried exceptionally hard to be as objective as
    possible, both in terms of our selection of issues and in the policy questions framed.
    The question of bias in question structure has come up a few times, and to be honest
    as the person who wrote the questions (so obviously biased, I admit) I don’t think
    the phrasing has any impact on the way that a person would respond – pro/anti
    id cards, house arrest, the Euro – the use of positive or negative question phrasing
    is not going to make someone change their opinions about these things.

    We go into some detail on the site as to how the results are calculated – the points
    allocated range between -9 and 9 depending on the party stance and your stance
    – strong views get strong points, and most of the questions have a range between
    -6 and 6 – only where an issue is the cornerstone of a party philosophy can the rating
    get as high as 9/-9.

    Yes, it is a quiz, but silly, I would say no (but then I am biased) the whole aim
    of the site is to highlight to the electorate that there are far more issues
    at stake in the current UK election than the 3 or 4 that get discussed in the
    national (especially tabloid) press. Do we intend for the site to make someone’s
    decision for them? Absolutely not. Do we want the site to make them more interested
    in the issues of this election, to go and read the manifestos themselves, to
    discuss politics with friends, to, if it isn’t too grand, take their vote a bit
    more seriously? Absolutely. From the feedback we have received this is what
    a lot of people have been doing – even (in fact especially) the ones who disagree
    with their result – to me that is great and makes the whole thing worth while.

    Yes, the site is something of a blunt instrument; no, people shouldn’t base their
    voting decision solely on an internet quiz, but if even 1% of the half million people
    who have taken the quiz engage in the UK democratic process with more interest
    than they did before then the whole thing will have been worth while.

    Oh and yes, and you can trust us – we have no side, no motive, other than the ones
    detailed above

    Sorry if it sounds like a bit of a rant, but it’s late, and the last couple of weeks
    have been a bit manic – roll on May 5th so that we can get some sleep

    Take care

    Paul

  2. Jill

    Thanks Paul. Actually, I quite liked the site, and found the questions chosen to be important ones and illuminating. It would worry me if people REALLY trusted a quiz like this with no other input, but that’s not likely to be the way many people use it. It does raise questions about what electronic democracy might be though – imagine if we simply had quizzes instead of elections? Perhaps in some ways it’d be a good idea, but there’d be a changes in the way we think about democracy and enlightened voting, anyway.

    Perhaps the quiz should be seen as (among other things) a political game, like the ones at watercoolergames.org?

  3. Paul Lenz

    Hi Jill

    Thanks for the reply – you are right to worry about people relying on the quiz
    without any other input – touch wood no-one would, and we have tried to pitch
    it as a quiz with a fun element (see out FAQ comments on the party leaders!).

    One of the most striking things about this election is how many people are seeming
    to be likely to be voting on personality/faith to deliver rather than on pure policy.
    We have had feedback from left of centre, traditional labour voters who have found
    that the Lib Dems have moved to the left of the party they traditioanlly support,
    however they don’t find Kennedy credible as a leader and will vote for Blair.
    They also worry about the Lib Dems lack of experience in power.

    The idea of electronic democracy – possibly even on an issue by issue basis – is
    one that has started to interested us as a result of this project and we are
    knocking some ideas around. It is risky having vote on a soundbite without thinking
    issues through, but then is it worse to elect a party that, on receiving the popular
    mandate, can do more or less what it wants for five years irrespective of the views
    of the electorate? Food for (longer-term) thought.

    Take care

    Paul

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