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Frequently Asked Questions
1

What is Vote Compass?

Vote Compass is an online voter engagement application designed by political scientists and run during election campaigns.  Based on their responses to a set of policy propositions relevant to the election, users are provided with a real-time assessment of their position in the political landscape and their proximity to each of the parties included in the application.  Vote Compass stimulates voter engagement by offering the electorate the opportunity to engage with and compare the policy platforms of political parties in a clear and accessible manner that addresses points of differentiation between the parties on relevant public policy issues.

2

Who is responsible for Vote Compass?

Vote Compass is developed by an independent, non-partisan network of political scientists. It is not affiliated with any political organisation or interest group. The Australian edition of Vote Compass is being developed in collaboration with a team of political scientists from the University of Melbourne and the University of Sydney. See About Vote Compass for more information or visit www.votecompass.com.au.

3

Does Vote Compass tell me how to vote?

Vote Compass results are not intended and should not be interpreted as voting advice, nor as a prediction as to which party a given user intends to vote for. Every eligible voter decides for themselves which party is most appropriate to represent them based on complex and variant criteria, not all of which are included in Vote Compass. The focus of Vote Compass is on public policy issues and how the parties differ on these issues, both among themselves and in relation to individual voters.

4

What is the ABC’s role in Vote Compass?

The ABC is the official and exclusive media sponsor for Vote Compass in Australia. It hosts the application within its election site, encourages Australian voters to engage with the tool, and uses analyses of respondent data to generate unique and exclusive news content for ABC viewers, listeners, and users. Vote Compass is an independent entity from the ABC and the political scientists behind the project operate independently of the ABC.

5

Why aren't the minor parties included in Vote Compass?

A political party or coalition of political parties with at least one sitting member in the Parliament at the time an election is called will be included in Vote Compass if it meets all of the following conditions: (a) it is registered under the relevant electoral authority; (b) it is likely to field candidates in a majority of constituencies; and (c) it has a fully developed policy platform. If a political party or coalition of parties does not have at least one sitting member in the Parliament at the time an election is called it may be included if it has recorded at least 5 per cent nationwide support in a recent, recognised and published independent poll and meets all three conditions required of parties with sitting members.

6

Why might Vote Compass place me closest to a party other than that which I intend to vote for?

Vote Compass is not intended to predict which  party a user intends to vote for in a given election nor which party a user feels that she or he is most closely aligned with. It specifies how the user is aligned with each of the major political parties on the basis of the public policy issues included in Vote Compass.

7

Who designed the questionnaire?

The questionnaire was designed by a team of Australian political scientists in collaboration with the academics responsible for Vote Compass.  Issues were selected based on an analysis of the public discourse, the policy platforms of the major political parties, and a crowdsourcing campaign launched by the ABC earlier this year.

8

What does the shaded area around my position represent?

In the final grid, a user's position is surrounded by a shaded ellipse. This ellipse indicates the range of possible positions a user might occupy in the grid  based on her or his responses. The ellipse is calculated based on the standard deviation of responses on the x and y axes. It indicates the consistency of a user's responses relative to the dimensions. If a user's responses are highly consistent, their ellipse (and thus the user's range of possible positions on the  grid) will be small. If responses are less consistent, the standard deviation (and hence the ellipse) becomes larger. The more inconsistent a user's set of responses, the more mathematical uncertainty there is when plotting the user in the graphical representation of the political landscape.

9

How does Vote Compass ensure the questions are not biased?

The questionnaire was developed by a team of non-partisan Australian and international academics who are committed to upholding an objective, dispassionate approach to questionnaire design.  Numerous third-party reviews are undertaken to ensure that the questionnaire is duly reflective of the Australian political discourse. Not all the questions are intended to be neutral. Some of the questions are intentionally crafted to reflect the positions of the political parties.

10

How does Vote Compass determine the positions of the candidates?

Candidates are plotted on the two-dimensional plane in the same way that users are: by using their responses to the questionnaire in order to plot them on the grid. Party responses to each of the questions in Vote Compass are derived through careful research of the candidate platform complemented by a consultative process between the academic team and the candidates themselves. See How it Works for details.

11

Why am I close to a party to which I gave a low rating or to whose leader I gave a low rating?

Leader ratings are not included in the calculation of a user’s position in the two-dimensional grid. Leader ratings are only taken into account in the leader bar graph, which is available on the results page. The party rating and vote intention questions in Vote Compass are not used in the calculation of a user’s results. They are for research purposes only.

12

Why do the response categories not allow me to fully express my position on the issues?

Vote Compass has established standard units of measurement by which to compare the policies of the major political parties. Vote Compass acknowledges that most issues are more complicated than can be captured on a 5-point scale, but by reducing this complexity the policy positions are made much more accessible. Vote Compass uses a 5-point scale instead of simply "Yes" and "No" to provide users with the opportunity to qualify their responses to a limited extent. Users who answer "somewhat agree" are essentially saying "Yes, but..." and users who answer "somewhat disagree" are essentially saying "No, but…".   

13

Why do the graphs show different results?

In some cases, users will appear to be more aligned with one party  on the two-dimensional grid and a different party on one or both of the bar graphs. This is a normal and expected result. These three graphs are designed to provide three different ways for users to interpret their results. The two-dimensional grid measures where users are situated in a general two dimensional political system. The parties bar graph measures how much you agree with the particular propositions included in the questionnaire. The leaders bar graph measures your overall evaluation of the leaders. The two-dimensional grid and the parties bar graph use the same responses to measure different things. The bar graph provides an indication of how much a user agrees with each on the specific propositions addressed in the questionnaire. The two-dimensional grid is an effort to represent the political landscape, or the ideological space in which voters and candidates are situated. The leaders bar graph uses only the responses to the three questions that were asked about the leaders to determine results. The multiple measures reflect the practical reality that a person may agree with certain policies of one party  but feel more aligned with the general values of the leader of another. How an individual reconciles these competing perspectives is entirely up to him or her.

14

What browser do I need to use Vote Compass?

For best results, please use one of these supported internet browsers: For Windows PC, Internet Explorer 8 or higher, FireFox 3.6 or higher, or current versions of Chrome; for Mac, Safari 5, FireFox 3.6 or higher or Chrome; and Safari for Ipad and Iphone iOS.

15

Is Vote Compass affiliated with any of the candidates or political parties?

No. Vote Compass is an independent, non-profit and non-partisan organization. It seeks to provide users with an objective, transparent analysis of the political landscape.

16

How are the axes of the two-dimensional plane determined?

The axes in Vote Compass are derived by way of a statistical technique that enables the identification of the primary ideological dimensions that structure political debate in a given context. In the case of Australian politics, statistical analysis run on a pre-election survey indicated that the two dimensions which underlie the responses of parties and voters are related to social and economic matters. These same dimensions are widely recognized by the academic literature on ideological space in Australia.