There are two dictionary definitions of ‘compass’. One is the pointer to magnetic north that tells you which direction you are going in. The other is “An instrument for drawing circles and arcs and measuring distances between points”. Vote Compass is more the later – it’s about showing you how far you sit from the parties rather than giving you a direction. In fact, Vote Compass explicitly does not suggest that your positioning will translate into voting intention.
It’s an interesting idea. You answer a series of questions on which issues are important to you and the result is a neat graphic showing where you and each of the major parties sit. The axis are Economic Right to Economic Left and Social Conservatism to Social Liberalism. You can also dig into individual policy positions, such as the NBN and immigration, and see how you sit in relation to the major parties.
The presentation of results is clear and compelling and makes the minutes invested in answering questions seem very worthwhile.
I found the results interesting, not least as I wasn’t placed where I expected to be. One of the nicer features of the application is that it comes with an indicator of uncertainty. The larger the grey area surrounding your position, the more inconsistent your answers were and the less certain your position is.
Vote Compass would kick up to a whole different level of interest if you could see your positioning against not only the major parties but other people based on the demographic data the system captures along the way – and it does capture a fair bit of generalised data about you. It would be fascinating to see how I sit compared to others in my postcode or economic position.
According to it’s creators, Vote Compass “is an interactive electoral literacy application developed by a global non-profit network of political scientists”. To my mind that mouthful of a description does the application a disservice. Vote Compass makes you consider where your position on actual policies leads you, rather than where your gut instincts underlying political leanings have you wandering. It makes you think about policies, rather than just trip over political statements and factoids. And in that sense, in that it makes you consider your policy position, it is like a magnetic compass needle: It wont tell you where you are going, but it may help you get there.
Or, if nothing else, it might give an indication of who it’s socially safe to invite to your election-night party…
To take a look head on over to Vote Compass.