WAHL-O-MAT RESEARCH

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When did the Wahl-O-Mat start for the first time?

The first Wahl-O-Mat started in 2002, several weeks prior to the federal elections. Due to effective marketing, e.g. in a German late night show and in magazines like “Stern” and “Spiegel”, the Wahl-O-Mat became famous right from its first implementation; the 2002 version was played about 3.6 million times. Since its first implementation the Wahl-O-Mat has become one of the most popular and famous online tools in Germany. Its initial success spurred new versions for the federal election in 2005 and 2009, the European Elections in 2004 and 2009, and for almost all elections on the sub-national level. The best score of the Wahl-O-Mat has been achieved prior to the German Federal Election in 2013 when the tool was used about 13.3 million times.

Table: Wahl-O-Mat-versions and their frequency of use

Year

Election

Number of uses

(result-notifications)

2016

Abgeordnetenhauswahl Berlin

        1 113 000

2016

Landtagswahl Baden-Wuerttemberg

         1 856 000 

2016

Landtagswahl Rhineland-Palatinate

           717 000

2016

Landtagswahl Saxony-Anhalt

                         488 000

2015

Bürgerschaftswahl Bremen

146 000

2015

Bürgerschaftswahl Hamburg

332 000

2014

Landtagswahl Brandenburg

121 000

2014

Landtagswahl Thuringia

107 000

2014

Landtagswahl Saxony

283 000

2014

European elections

3 890 000

2013

Bundestag elections

13 270 000

2013

Landtagswahl Bavaria

1 180 000

2013

Landtagswahl Lower Saxony

604 000

2012

Landtagswahl North Rhine-Westphalia

1 270 000

2012

Landtagswahl Schleswig-Holstein

255 000

2012

Landtagswahl Saarland

172 000

2011

Abgeordnetenhauswahl Berlin

516 000

2011

Bürgerschaftswahl Bremen

106 000

2011

Landtagswahl Baden-Wuerttemberg

985 000

2011

Landtagswahl Rhineland-Palatinate

308 000

2011

Bürgerschaftswahl Hamburg

315 000

2010

Landtagswahl North Rhine-Westphalia

650 000

2009

Bundestag elections

6 740 000

2009

European elections

1 585 000

2008

Bürgerschaftswahl Hamburg

 94 000

2008

Landtagswahl Lower Saxony

215 000

2007

Bürgerschaftswahl Bremen

 49 000

2006

Abgeordnetenhauswahl Berlin

145 000

2006

Landtagswahl Saxony-Anhalt

 47 000

2006

Landtagswahl Rhineland-Palatinate

 74 000

2006

Landtagswahl Baden-Wuerttemberg

140 000

2005

Bundestag elections

5 200 000

2005

Landtagswahl North Rhine-Westphalia

313 000

2005

Landtagswahl Schleswig-Holstein

 90 000

2004

Landtagswahl Saxony

 72 000

2004

Landtagswahl Saarland

 38 000

2004

European elections

897 000

2003

Landtagswahl Bavaria

 97 000

2002

Bundestag elections

3 600 000

Source: Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, Wahl-O-Mat Archiv.

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What is the idea of the tool?

The Wahl-O-Mat presents 38 propositions to its users, for example, ‘All public buildings should by law become non-smoking areas’ or ‘The VAT must be raised’. People visiting the website are asked to take a stand on the propositions by clicking one of three buttons: ‘agree’, ‘disagree’ or ‘neutral’. Additionally, users have the option of skipping several theses. After voting on all items on the list, the users can mark those propositions, that they consider important to them, to give them a special weight in the final calculation. Finally, the Wahl-O-Mat calculates the distances between the voter’s and the parties’ positions and displays, as the result, the party with the smallest distance - the best match.

Additionally, the Wahl-O-Mat calculates the extent of agreement between the voter’s position and all parties by displaying the respective summed distances for all parties selected. Furthermore, for each proposition the users have the option to take a closer look at the relation between the parties’ positions and their own point of view. Finally, Wahl-O-Mat players can have a look at any explanation the parties may have provided concerning the positions they have taken on these propositions.

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Where are the origins of the Wahl-O-Mat?

The Wahl-O-Mat is the German version of the Dutch “StemWijzer” that was developed by the Amsterdam “Instituut voor Publiek en Politiek/IPP” first as a paper-and-pencil version then as a digital tool on disks and since 1998 on the Internet.

The “StemWijzer” has become a very popular tool of civic education in the Netherlands. Apart from the Dutch “StemWijzer”, there are other “Voting Advice Applications” (VAAs) in many countries. E.g. the French “MonVoteàMoi” or the Italian “Cabina Elettorale” do work the same way as the “StemWijzer” and belong therefore to the same family of Voting Advice Applications.

In Canada, Sweden the USA and some other countries, there are Voting Advice Applications which belong to the “Kieskompas” family, a group of VAAs that functions differently.

In addition to the national VAAs, there are also two tools created for the elections to the European Parliament: the “Votematch EU” (Kieskompas) and the “EU Profiler” (StemWijzer), which are available in different European languages and should help to indicate which European party family matches the user’s position best.

You can find a list of the different Voting Advice Applications here.

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How is a Wahl-O-Mat implemented?

The Wahl-O-Mat versions are produced by the “Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung” (bpb) (Federal Agency for Civic Education), partly in cooperation with other agencies of civic education. About three months prior to the elections, a group of first- or second- time voters (the “Wahl-O-Mat editorial staff”), all under the age of 27, convene in order to generate the policy propositions or “theses”. Based on the party platforms and other information provided at the time of the first staff meeting, the participants identify relevant issues that might be controversial within the election campaign. Journalists and political scientists advise them in the process, and there are numerous other feedback loops to ensure quality and accuracy.

The propositions must meet several criteria.  They should: 1) be easy to understand; 2) address questions relevant to citizens’ lives; and 3) present different party points of view in respect to them. Before launching the tool (approximately five weeks before the election day), parties are asked to position themselves in respect to about 60 to 80 theses, which meet the mentioned criteria and upon which the Wahl-O-Mat editorial staff agreed. On the basis of the parties’ responses, a final set of around 30 to 40 propositions is selected. This final selection is guided by, firstly, statistical calculations, ensuring that the theses are able to distinguish appropriately between the Wahl-O-Mat-parties, and secondly, by the question of relevance: What are the vital issues for the voters?

The final list is then turned into an online Wahl-O-Mat, becoming part of the website of the Federal Agency of Civic Education. Download versions for personal computers and mobile phones are also available. In addition, didactical material for schools, colleges, and universities is provided for each version.

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How does the Wahl-O-Mat calculate the results?

The results are calculated on the basis of the city block method. The party receives one point for every block difference between the party and the user, so the party with the lowest score is the one nearest to the user. The difference between “agree” and “don´t agree” is translated into two points. The difference between “agree” or “don´t agree” and “neutral” counts one point. By giving a proposition a special weight, the users can double the score of the respective differences to the parties.

User:

"agree"

User:

"neutral"

User:

"don't agree"

Party: "agree"

0

1

2

Party: "neutral"

1

0

1

Party: "don't agree"

2

1

0

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