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Department of Political Science

Voting advice applications: Methodological development and impact assessment


Stefaan Walgrave
University of Antwerp, Netherlands



Diego Garzia
University of Lucerne, Switzerland


Keywords: Tailor-made information, issue voting, big data for social sciences

Description: Voting Advice Applications (VAAs) are online-tools assisting citizens with their voting decision. VAAs like the Dutch Stemwijzer,the German Wahl-O-Mat, or the Swiss smartvote have experienced remarkable success in the last years. One particular specialty of VAAs is that, contrary to other online phenomena, conducting research and building the tools are very often intermingled. Quite a few VAAs have been constructed by social scientists themselves. This provides them with the chance to collect valuable data by constructing these tools according to their research interests and needs, for example, by including survey items into the questionnaire or by manipulating the design quasi-experimentally and thereby controlling for respective effects. This workshop is articulated in three main parts. In the first, participants will be exposed to the state of the art in VAA research, focusing especially on the research that examines the effects of VAAs on users’ political behavior. As VAAs are increasingly used and as they make a difference on their users, the key question becomes whether the advice VAAs provide to their users is reliable and unbiased. For this reason, the second part of the workshop is devoted to the methodological choices involved in the making of VAAs. Practical examples will be offered so that participants can gain a factual understanding of the ways in which VAAs are actually conceptualized and developed. The third and last part of the workshop underlines the potential of VAA-generated (big) data for comparatively studying public opinion and party systems over time and across countries and thereby bridges research on VAAs to general questions of political science research.

Target group: Doctoral students, advanced Master students and postdoctoral researchers who are work either on Voting Advice Applications or on research questions that could be addressed based on VAA-generated datasets. The workshop is also of interest to all those practitioners interested in gaining hands-on knowledge on the making of VAAs.

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