No matter which voting advice application we have looked at so far, they all had at least one flaw: they reduce the parties' positions to a binary alternative: for or against. Unfortunately, this blurs essential differences in central positions. With votetest.org, we want to show that our model, which allows more than two possibilities of agreement, leads to better results without overburdening the users.
votetest.org was used for the first time for the Berlin House of Representatives election in 2001 and is in fact the oldest voting advice application in Germany. It was initially created as a content format for the media, who increasingly saw no prospect of competing with the Wahl-O-Mat, a state election recommendation application launched in 2002 by the Federal Agency for Civic Education. On the occasion of the 2019 European Parliament elections, we have "revived" it on our own initiative with a new multilingual interface.
wegewerk is an agency for non-profit communication based in Berlin. We specialise in bringing issues of the future to the public - and in this respect we depend on a functioning democracy. Voting Advice Applications are very helpful in this respect, as they have been proven to increase voter turnout. We are proud to have done pioneering work here, which is still needed. This motivates us to maintain the service from our own resources, even without a client and without a political or commercial mission. We will continue to offer the software to associations as a white-label solution with which they can mobilise their members to vote, add association-specific topics and comment on the positions of the parties - but always under their own design and never as an "election test"/"Votetest".
We are not financially supported by anyone and can therefore only put limited energy into the project. Our approach of deriving questions from the programmes and not drawing them up ourselves has, among many advantages, the disadvantage that the research becomes more complex with each additional party/candidacy, also because smaller parties or candidacies with outsider chances rarely present comprehensive programmes. In order to work with a clear, transparent criteria, we have only taken into account parties/candidacies that had a chance of winning a minimum percentage of votes in recent opinion polls (e.g. 5%, which in Germany also corresponds to the threshold above which parties do not enter parliament).
The questions in the votetest are compiled by a team of political scientists. In selecting the topics, we were guided by the results of surveys on the most important political issues (e.g. Eurobarometer, Forschungsgruppe Wahlen, IFOP). For these, the next step is to examine the election programmes for concrete and distinguishable statements. Preference is given to proposals on which all or almost all parties comment in the election programmes. Missing statements in the programmes are supplemented, if necessary, by statements from legislative proposals, party congress resolutions or clear media positions of top personnel of the relevant political level or corresponding documents of other political levels (in this order). We only include proposals by individual parties if they have already received relevant media echo in leading media. Where abstract proposals have already been tested for their concrete impact by recognised research institutes, we also work with these results.
In the case of Wahcheck DE-2013, the questions were formulated by our client at the time, the Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband, and were intended to serve consumers as interactive election touchstones; the offer did not pursue the claim of a comprehensive programme analysis.
In the case of the Wahcheck DE-2009, the questions were formulated with our then client ver.di and NGG, these were intended to serve as interactive election checkstones for their members, the offer did not pursue the claim of a comprehensive programme analysis.
This is not about our opinion, but that of the users. We cannot claim to give honest advice if we hide relevant options. However, we are convinced that it is precisely that we are better in pointing out of differences in the choice that counteracts the appeal of radical alternatives. Furthermore, we follow the principle of not including any demands from individual programmes if these have not at least found a public echo via leading media - in this way we prevent that we only help issues to gain a publicity through the election test/vote test, which they would otherwise not have.
The electoral test fulfils all requirements of the Lausanne Declaration on Voting Advice Applications. With its link to demoscopic data in the sense of the highest possible transparency in the selection of topics, it even goes beyond these requirements.
Our idea of an anonymous comparison of party programmes was inspired by a project at the University of Passau in the late 1990s; our idea was to turn this into software. And the fold-out bars in the evaluation was inspired by Voteswiper. Thanks!