Who will best represent my views in the new European Parliament, elected in a couple of weeks? Voting advice applications (VAA) are tools designed to help make that decision. They present a tailor-made proposal of political parties and/or candidates that would best match the voters’ preferences. They are fun to use, and getting more and more popular in all kinds of elections, national as well as European.
In addition to national applications designed for European elections, there are several pan-European tools to discover the current political landscape. Electio2014, MyVote2014 and euandi are three examples of such tools. They all provide a different package with variations on scope, target group, selection of statements, methodology, etc. However, they share the same aim: well-informed voter decisions.
Discovering your position on the political map
Euandi matches voters with political groups. Users can compare their positions with those of parties at national level and at EU level. It is based on experiences gained from the EUProfiler, a voting advice application built for the 2009 European elections. At the time, it attracted more than 2,5 million visitors in the six weeks preceding the elections.
MyVote2014, which calls itself a voting calculator, targets young people in particular (18-35 year-olds). It invites users to cast their vote on 15 major issues on which MEPs voted during the current legislature. The application shows how MEPs and European political parties voted on those 15 issues selected, offers explanation on the topics and shows a hypothetical scenario of how users’ votes could have changed EU decision-making outcomes.
Electio2014 is a multifaceted vote matching tool. It compares voters’ views to those of MEP candidates on 20 issues on which the EP actually voted. Like MyVote2014, it explains the context of the 20 real life votes selected and shows a hypothetical scenario based on votes cast by users of the application. In addition, Electio2014 offers citizens a way to compare their opinions with those of civil society organisations and national opinion leaders. Moreover, users can voice their opinion on nominees to the position of European Commission President.
In order to reach the broadest possible audience, these VAAs are available in several or all EU languages. Many of them are accessible not only from a website but also via mobile applications and they can be incorporated into other websites by widgets. Some of them make the sharing of results in social media possible and thus connect with other voters.
Research examines influence on voters
The increased number and use of voting advice applications has contributed to a growing body of academic research on the topic. For example, data collected by the EU Profiler has been examined in several studies. Among others, the following questions have been examined: how useful VAAs are and for whom, what impact they have on the party preferences of voters and how trustworthy and convincing they are in the eyes of voters. They are tools with a lot of potential, but as some scholars point out, there is still room for methodological improvements. Possible future uses for pan-European VAAs have been presented in studies. One of them sees an essential role for these tools in trans-nationalising Europe’s voting space.