'Political Facebook' to help undecided EU voter

EurActiv, May 16, 2008

A voter advice application, due to go online shortly before European elections next year, is set to help undecided voters determine which political party most suits their views.

The tool, nicknamed 'EU Profiler', will be based on national applications already used in elections in the Netherlands (Kieskompas) and Switzerland (Smartvote). It consists of a questionnaire of approximately 40 questions on country-specific as well as EU issues, allowing the user (who remains anonymous) to agree or disagree to varying degrees on the questions posed.

The application, with the slogan "help is on the way for undecided voters," is also there to help inform on EU public opinion, said the head of the programme Professor Alexander Trechsel of the European University Institute (EUI). The programme is being designed by social scientists from across Europe, using party political platforms as the basis for allowing voters to see which party is closest to their preferences.

Trechsel admitted the programme was an experimental one, but one of the objectives was to "satisfy the political curiosity of voters," he said. The system has already been successfully used in the Netherlands, where three million voters used it. The director of the Dutch version, Marijn Bom, said the Profiler would not tell voters who to vote for, but give an analysis to show where you stand on various issues.

The data on political standpoints is taken purely from political party views taken from their respective manifestos. The funding for the project, in order to ensure complete independence from political pressure, is purely from the EUI with assistance from Kieskompas and Smartvote.

In recognition of the fact that the younger generation use online tools more, Trechsel noted that e-democracy will be the dominant platform for political discussion in the future and this programme will enable younger voters to become more informed about the hot topics of our time. "It's a political Facebook," he added.

He expected EU Profiler to have more of an effect on young voters who have no real attachment to party politics, thereby stimulating political interest at a younger age. "This is the largest e-democracy survey that has ever taken place," said Trechsel.

Political spectrums differ in various EU member states, leading the team behind EU Profiler to make a number of decisions regarding the makeup of the programme across the EU. The experimental nature of the programme has left a lot of options open over what to include, and the team behind it expects to finalise this over the next few months.

The results of the survey will allow social scientists to see whether voters are more responsive to national or EU issues.

EU Profiler is expected to be online two months before elections to the European Parliament take place in June 2009.

More articles on EurActiv can be found here:
www.euractiv.com/en/opinion

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