Over the last couple of months I’ve been involved with the “euandi” project run by Alex Trechsel at the European University Institute. euandi is a voting advice application designed to offer information to users about the extent to which their political preferences overlap with those of political parties standing in the upcoming European Parliament elections. The application is, from the perspective of a political scientist, pretty cool – you can visualize your position in political “space” and also look at which other areas of Europe have political views which align with your own, at a super low level of granularity (see pictures below). Apparently there’s a place for me in every country though I’d be best off in Sweden. Who knew? 🙂
It’s been a really interesting project to be a part of – there were over 100 people in the team spread across all 28 member states, so I was a relatively small cog in the machine. A couple of things have stuck in the mind. It is first of all pretty difficult to position parties accurately. A lot of questions on the profiler were quite nuanced (e.g. I would support green energy even at the cost of higher energy prices, social programmes at the expense of higher taxes, etc.). However contemporary political parties won’t ever present this nuance: green energy is presented as a way of lowering costs, social programmes can be maintained without tax, etc. Is this something that turns people off contemporary politics, or has it always been this way? Not sure.
Second, like all such applications euandi presents a purely issue based view of politics – no room for questions of competence, trustworthiness etc. Lots of people are surprised when using it that they are placed with an apparently minor or radical party (and of course many “far right” parties have very left leaning / socialist policies in terms of labour law, employment protection, etc.). Hence the results need to be handled with care and don’t directly replace knowledge of the political system.
Can we boost turnout with such mechanisms, or do they only appeal to those already interested in politics? I think there must be something in it, especially for those undecided or who perhaps want to find about a minor party. Nevertheless I think it’s also pretty clear by now that e-democracy isn’t going to lead to a turnout revolution: rather IMO it’s about nuancing and informing the decisions of those who are already interested.