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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? đŸ™‚

My political europe


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.

My political space

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.


By |2014-04-28T14:23:16+01:00April 28th, 2014|Research, Social Web|3 Comments

Can social data be used to predict elections?

I’ve just started a new research blog with my colleague Taha Yasseri. Two aims: we want to know if and when social data might be useful in election prediction; we want to see if this knowledge teaches us anything about the political process. It’s also interesting to experiment with the idea of blogging research rather than going the usual journal route (though I imagine a paper or two will result anyway). Much quicker, rougher, but definitely satisfies my urge to do things quickly. We hope it will make the finished output better as well.

all-wikipedia-euelections article-2

The above image is an excerpt from the first post, on electoral information seeking in 19 different countries. We find that, essentially, people look for information much more after the election has already finished than before, probably in response to the election itself as a media event.

I’ll be cross posting a bit more as the blog develops.