Voting aids back online: ‘They mainly encourage thought’

The Second Chamber elections are in four weeks, so the choice of a particular party and candidate is getting closer. For those who are still in doubt there are online voting aids. And that is in great demand: some 40% of voters use it, according to research.

The biggest one went online on Wednesday: Stemwijzer.nl. Number 2 Kieskompas (1.2 million visitors in 2017) will go live next Wednesday.

Within a day the Voice Guide was visited 360,000 times, says Anita de Jong from creator ProDemos. In the previous elections, the Voting Guide accounted for 6.8 million visitors. โ€œThe peak is always in the last days before the elections,โ€ says De Jong. โ€œThen millions of people come to the site.โ€

Tuning aids encourage thought

Given the huge number of visitors, scientists have been researching the influence of online voice aids for years. One of them is Naomi Kamoen from Tilburg University.

โ€œ The online voice aids have a positive effect on turnout,โ€ she says. โ€œThat seems to be because people who fill out a voice help get more so-called political self-confidence; the tool makes them think. If people feel that they understand politics better and know who to vote for, they are more likely to vote. If someone has no idea of politics, they will often stay at home.โ€

This incitement to thinking is the most important effect of the tuning aids. โ€œThey are mainly intended to inform users and not to convince them,โ€ writes the research group that Kamoen is part of in 2018.

Fill in for verification

The effect on voters depends on the background of the person who completes the voting aid. From the same study: โ€œPolitically interested citizens use the voting aid to recheck their existing views, while less politically interested voters use the tool more often to look at what to vote on.โ€

Research in 2014 also showed that most people use the voting aids to check if they really agree with the party they want to vote on.

Do the voting aids have no influence on the election results at all? It is: the majority of the questionable voters take the advice of the voting aid. This happens especially if it is somewhat in line with existing preferences.

Skip question instead of neutral answers

Naomi Kamoen is now researching the formulation of the theses and their effect on the answers people give. โ€œFor example, we know that it makes a difference whether the statement is formulated positively (allowing something) or negatively (prohibiting something). It‘s a small effect, but generally people answer no to negative more often than yes to positive.โ€

She also knows that questions referring to current policies and whether a particular tax should be increased or reduced, for example, lead to ‘no opinion‘. โ€œThat’s because people don‘t really know what the current state of affairs is, so how high the tax is now.โ€

She would like to say something about that. Because according to Kamoon, people often press the wrong button when they don’t know what they want to answer. โ€œThey then choose ‘neutral’ instead of ‘no opinion’ (Dial Compass) or ‘skip’ (Voice pointer). But many people are not aware that a neutral answer is taken into account in the outcome of the voting aid and those other options are not.โ€

An important voice help advice from Kamoon is therefore: if you do not know what to answer or if you do not understand the statement, skip the question or opt for no opinion. Then you get a piece of advice that suits you better.