Another project of Unlock Democracy

Frequently Asked Questions

Updated: 28 April 2014

What is Vote Match?

Vote Match is an online election quiz which matches users to the political party that best represents their views in an election, based on the issues which they select as most important.

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What is the aim of Vote Match?

Vote Match recognises that often it is not obvious which candidate or party in an election best represents your views. So it invites you to answer some straightforward questions and then lists for you the candidates in order of their closeness to YOUR views.

Vote Match has four aims:

  • To be fun
  • To inform people about the policy differences between candidates
  • To promote debate
  • To encourage people to vote

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How does it work?

Users are asked if they agree or disagree with 26 statements on policy issues - for example, “The UK should leave the EU”. Our app then matches the user's views with the responses to these statements provided to us by the political parties competing in the elections.

However, Vote Match doesn’t tell people how to vote! It merely gives them information on party policies in specific policy areas, in order to help them make their choice. Vote Match doesn't just give just you a result; it explains why your responses match, and provides links to further information.

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Why is my party not included?

We gave all parties who have elected representatives in the European Parliament, Westminster, Scottish Parliament, or Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies the opportunity to participate. However, some parties chose not to participate. Where possible, we completed non-participating parties’ answers from publicly available information, giving the parties the opportunity to change answers if they provided evidence that our draft answers were incorrect. Using questionnaires and using publicly available information are both recognised methods of obtaining party answers, but we believe in giving parties first refusal in answering.

For the 2014 European elections, the following parties did not participate and we completed answers on their behalf: Conservatives, Labour, Sinn Féin

The following parties did not participate and we were unable to fill out answers on their behalf due to lack of information and time constraints: NI21, SDLP, TUV, UUP

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Are you saying I should vote for the party or candidate that Vote Match says is my best match?

How you vote is entirely up to you!

We can't hope to cover every single issue on the survey, but we do hope Vote Match gives you pause for thought, especially if you don't get the result you were expecting. We encourage you to take things further by visiting the party websites, reading other guides to the election and exploring the issues.

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Is it politically biased?

Vote Match is a politically neutral project. As far as possible, the parties answer statements themselves and through our methodology we have taken great steps to minimise any unintended bias. Unlock Democracy, which runs Vote Match, is a non-politically aligned campaign organisation, something which is enshrined in our organisation's constitution.

Ultimately, the best guard against bias is transparency. For this reason we publish how all the parties have responded and how the calculation is made.

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How are the party responses on Vote Match determined?

All the answers to the statements are the party’s own answers, unless they have chosen not to participate, in which case we answer the statements on their behalf based on publicly available information, including manifestos, policy documents, speeches &c. We are willing to change these answers provided either the party or their supporters can provide us with compelling evidence to do so.

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How did you select the statements used in the quiz?

For every Vote Match, Unlock Democracy compiles a long list of statements by consulting with a wide and diverse range of key stakeholders e.g. journalists, academics, bloggers, citizenship and outreach groups etc. Unlock Democracy also surveys members of the public online for their views using social media. For the 2014 European elections, we received advice from Jack Blumenau (LSE Dept of Government), an expert on voting behaviour in the European Parliament.

These statements are then answered either by the parties, or if they are unwilling, by the Vote Match team on their behalf. From these responses we prepare a shortlist, filtering out issues where there was uniform agreement or which did not otherwise provide us with discriminating information (for example, if most candidates responded that they were "open minded" on a statement this was generally excluded).

The final list is designed to ensure that there are clear policy differences between all the candidates. You can always examine this in detail yourself on the results section.

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How is my score calculated?

Vote Match works by comparing your responses to the statements with the responses of each of the candidates.

  • For each statement in which you and the party agree (e.g. you both either agree, disagree or are open minded about a statement), you score 0.
  • For each statement in which and the party completely disagree (e.g. you agree and the party disagrees, or vice versa), you score 2.
  • For each statement in which either you or the party is open minded and the other either agrees or disagrees, you score 1.
  • If you skip a statement, it is ignored and not included in the calculation
  • Statements which you indicate as particularly important count double.

Finally, Vote Match calculates the maximum possible difference between you and the parties, which depends on the number of statements you skip and the number of issues you rank as important or unimportant. Your score is subtracted from this and the result gives a measure of how much you agree.

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Why don't you have any statements about the personality, competence or record of the party leaders?

We are skeptical that a quiz could ever adequately take such issues into account. Personality is highly subjective and the public record of candidates can be potentially misleading - it is perfectly possible that an individual may have changed their mind in the interim.

These are all issues that the media is far, far better at tackling than a project like this. Instead Vote Match focuses on areas of policy which candidates have authority on. This is one of the main reasons why we do not suggest that you necessarily should vote for the candidate Vote Match suggests you are closest to. We encourage you to look into the issues in more detail and draw your own conclusions.

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How can I add Vote Match to my blog or website?

To embed the Vote Match widget on your website, simply add the following html code to a blog post or to your website code:

<iframe src="http://uk.votematch.eu" display="block" width="768" height="450" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"> <p>You are reading this because your browser doesn't support iframes. Try this <a href="http://uk.votematch.eu" target="_blank">link</a> instead.</p> </iframe>

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What have you achieved?

Vote Match has proven itself to be an internet phenomenon as well as a great way of improving turnout. Nearly 2 million people have used the various versions of Vote Match in just 3 years since it was first launched in 2008. The UK 2010 General Election version had over a million unique users’ complete 1.2 million surveys, with millions more page hits recorded.

Vote Matches have now been commissioned by clients for elections across the world, including the US, Spain and Ireland.

The Independent's John Rentoul described Vote Match as "a digital democracy breakthrough". The Good Web Guide commented that "The beauty of this site is its simplicity." The independent think tank, Ekklesia stated "Vote Match... is helping to change the electoral landscape..".

Our 2010 Vote Match user survey found that:

  • 99.4% of users found the site to be very or somewhat easy to use
  • 75.3% were more aware of the policy differences between the parties after using the quiz
  • 57% of users sought out more information about politics after taking the quiz.
  • 12.7% of users changed their minds as to who to vote for on the basis of their result.
  • 1 in 20 people surveyed (4.5%) said that they voted as a direct consequence of using the quiz.

The full results are available upon request

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How are you funded?

Unlock Democracy, which runs Vote Match and underwrites it, is funded by a combination of individual donations and membership subscriptions, the revenue from its property holding company Rodell Properties Ltd and a number of grants from awarding bodies and institutions.

In the interests of transparency, Unlock Democracy has a policy to publish its full accounts online and to voluntarily declare any donation it receives, which is above the reporting threshold for political parties (£5,000). A full list of these donations can be found on our main website.

In respective of Vote Match past funders have included The Telegraph Media Group, Confused.Com The Guardian, TV3 and the Joseph Rowntree Reform trust Ltd.

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How will you use my personal data?

Please refer to our privacy policy for details.

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Can we use Vote Match for our election?

Vote Match can be used for any election, national, international, local or internal. If you are interested in discussing potential commercial or sponsorship opportunities, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Please get in touch with us if you are running an election and wish to commission a Vote Match for your respective election.