The Vote-o-matic 2010

Last week I stumbled across this spreadsheet, which had been put together by a bunch of Internet types. It is basically a list of all (or most) of the Australian political parties, a stack of policies, and how those parties feel about those policies.

This was something I had been wanting to compile at elections past, with a view to trying to do something useful with it. As with many things I have wanted to do, I never found time, so I was very happy to see someone else had done most of the hard work.

I thought it would be an interesting experiment to see how closely my personal preferences on all these topics aligned with these parties, so I threw together a little webpage which I dubbed (in a fit of originality) “Vote-o-Matic“.

Basically, you just select whether you oppose or support a particular policy, then hit the submit button, and the system simply calculates how many hits you get with each party. It is nothing fancy and people certainly shouldn’t treat it like a major feat of engineering; it was hacked together in about an hour late one night after a game of football.

It is very simple, though after sharing it around with a few people, it became clear that something like this could be a useful tool. Several people have volunteered some great ideas, and – if time permits – I hope to implement them in “version 2.0”. For example, a major flaw of the system at the moment is it gives more weight to parties that have more known positions on policies, simply because there’s a greater chance you’ll have matches with them. Having some sort of weighting would help mitigate that problem (or, alternatively, representatives of all the parties could contact the spreadsheet maintainers and get their positions listed so the data is complete).

While I hope that people don’t really use this to decide who they should vote for, I hope it helps to give people more information about our great country’s political parties. I know several people have been surprised to see how closely their preferences match one party over another (“hey, maybe I /am/ a solicalist!”).

I hope that people use this as an excuse to do some more in-depth research about who they should be voting for, rather than basing their decision on whatever single emotionally-charged issue they happened to see covered on TV.

As mentioned on the Vote-o-matic page I am happy to listen to any and all feedback and will reply to whatever I can (if you include an email address!); I’ll action any reasonable suggestion I can as well.

If you haven’t seen it, you can access Vote-o-matic here:

7 thoughts on “The Vote-o-matic 2010”

  1. I like your idea, but I am a LDP supporter, and It said I should vote for the greens, socialist alliance, then the ALP before the LDP! I am by NO means a socialist.

    I think you have seriously misallocated the weightings given to various policies, and therefore probably represented the greens and the socialist left too heavily.

    Nice idea however, I would like to see it expanded, so people don’t just vote labor or liberal, but can identify parties which actually better fit their individual views.

  2. Heh, yours is a pretty typical comment: “I support party X, but your silly thing told me I should vote for party Y!”

    Before I begin, I will note that I, personally, have not put /any/ weightings on any of the policies. Any weightings you see are perceived only, and are a function of how much data is in the source spreadsheet and how much data you provide about your own preferences.

    The Greens and the Socialists get more “weight” only because there is more data in the source spreadsheet (and I remind you that I didn’t compile or edit that spreadsheet) about their views on those policies.

    Realistically, any real “weightings” should only be related to how much you personally weight that particular policy. I have an idea for how I would like to handle that but not sure if I will have time to implement it. Basically though I would like to make it so you can give weight to how much you care about certain policies or groups of policies, and your results will be adjusted accordingly.

    I will add that it scares me when people say “I am an XYZ supporter”, because it implies a blind devotion to that party that will extend beyond their view on certain policies. My only hope is that Vote-o-matic and the spreadsheet from which the data came from helps give people more information and helps them realise that maybe ‘their party’ isn’t the best fit for /all/ of their views.

    (As an aside, I would also point out that, if your policy preferences closely match those of socialist parties – maybe you are a socialist at heart! :)

  3. great idea. for an undecided voter I found it very useful to get a quick glance at some of the issues at hand, and where the parties stand for these issues. would be a great thing to get out to the masses especially those who put in the donkey vote. look forward to version 2

  4. Nice tool! As noted above, the sheer weight of policy data heavily favours the Greens and socialist alliance in the current setup – the max score for a given party is capped by the number of entries they have in the spreadsheet.

    The simplest way to weight that would be to rank the results by percentage agreement rather than the quantity of agreement.

    So, for example, suppose party A has 30 policies listed and you agree with 15 of them, 15/30 = 50%, so they would get a score of 50% for you. Suppose party B only has 15 policies listed, but you agree with all of them – then they would score a 100% match and be at the top of your list.

    The “negative matches” could be taken into account the same way they are now (i.e. by subtracting them from the match count before working out the match percentage). To take party A from the above example, if you explicitly disagreed with 3 of their policies, then your match percentage with negative counts enabled would drop to 12/30, or 40%.

    Counting up and displaying more raw data on the results page could be interesting as well, such as showing something like the following for each party if a “show detailed results” button is checked:
    Greens: 72% match (Agree: 32, Disagree: 9, Voter opinion neutral on party policy: X, Party policy neutral on voter opinion: Y, Party and voter both neutral on policy: Z).

    Very cool idea even in its current simple incarnation though!

  5. Ditto, Nick.
    Also, I’d suggest showing negative scores when you evaluate opposite views as negatives.

  6. Dang, I’d seen the spreadsheet, but hadn’t seen this page until just after I’d voted. I also had some entertaining frontrunners, but looking at the data revealed the stacked greens / socialist issue.

    I like the percentaage idea; that would help alleviate the disparity in sheer numbers of issues, but a display of the policies that were specifically opposing your choices would be the more concise information to bring to bear on your vote. I guess people could dig up the spreadsheet if they felt like they needed more details, but I really like the idea of asking questions first to get an idea of YOUR preferences before seeing what parties are actually offering.

  7. Thanks for the great feedback guys. Unfortunately I didn’t have any time to work on it before the election.

    As the response was very good though (and it seems like we might be heading back to the polls at some point :) I will try to make sure I have more time to work on it for the next election and action a bunch of these suggestions!

    I also got a lot of great feedback via the feedback form; several people noted that it is not clear what the policies actually are.

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