The design effects of voting advice applications: Comparing methods of calculating matches


In election times more and more voters consult voting advice applications (VAAs), which show them what party or candidate provides the best match. The potential impact of these tools on election outcomes is substantial and hence it is important to study the effects of their design. This article focuses on the method used to calculate the match between voters and parties. More specifically, we examine the use (explicit or implicit) of alternative spatial models and metrics. The analyses are based on the actual answers given by users of one of the most popular VAAs in Europe, StemWijzer in the Netherlands. The results indicate that the advice depends strongly on the spatial model adopted. A majority of the users of StemWijzer would have received another advice, if another spatial model had been used. At the aggregate level this means that how often a particular party is presented as best match depends strongly on the method used to determine the advice. These findings have important implications for the design of future VAAs.

Acta Politica 49(3): 286-312