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Capacity building of young academics and journalists in measuring and analysing electoral dynamics via Vote Advice Applications during the 2019 Lithuanian Presidential and European Parliament elections

Leader
Ainė Ramonaitė
Dr. André Krouwel
Duration
2019
Funded by

Project idea

Kieskompas.nl in collaboration with the Institute of International Relations and Political Science (IIRPS) of Vilnius University (Lithuania) will develop a state-of-the-art voting advice application (VAA) for the 2019 Lithuanian President and European Parliament elections. The national VAA (ManoBalsas.lt) will be developed and tailored to the Lithuanian context together with Lithuanian academics. Previous VAAs designed by Kieskompas have attracted millions of users. Approximately 10 Lithuanian young academics will be trained to develop an online Vote Advice Application, code political party and candidate positions, analyse large N datasets and report the results to the public. The main lecturers will be André Krouwel (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and founder of Kieskompas, Election Compass) and Aine Ramonaite (IIRPS Vilnius University and founder of ManoBalsas.lt).

General stages of development of an online election platform and training

The general stages of the development of the VAA for the 2019 Lithuanian Presidential and European Parliament elections are as follows:

I. Development of statements: For the national VAA for the 2019 Lithuanian elections, Kieskompas will develop together with Prof. Aine Ramonaite a questionnaire that includes the 30 most salient political issues. Both Prof. Ramonaite and Kieskompas/VU have an extensive network of local scholars that collaborated earlier in joint projects, including election studies related activities. These statements will thus be made with the expert input of Lithuanian academics and experts in Lithuanian politics. This ensures that voters will find many issues that are relevant to their daily lives and we can adequately capture the dynamic of party competition. The VAA will be available in Lithuanian.

II. Training on political party and candidate positions coding: The team will receive training on the methods of party/candidate positioning, after which each party/candidate contesting in the 2019 elections is positioned on the statements included in the VAA. The quality of the provided information is scientifically grounded. The selection of political issues and statements, as well as the positioning of the parties/candidates, is done according to strict academic standards. The party/candidate positioning will be done based on formal party documentation, candidates’ manifestos and campaign materials. This is done by an academically sound and totally transparent method. Users can see the source that backs up each position recorded for the parties and candidates on the issues in the VAA. These justifications for party placements candidates’ positions may represent extracts from official election manifestos, party websites, policy documents of parties and statements made by the party and candidate during the election campaign. The inclusion of these justifications allows voters not only to see where the different parties and candidates stand on the issues but also shows the argumentation that parties and candidates use to defend their stances.

III. Technical design: The VAA will not only give citizens one-sided voting advice, but will position each user broadly in the political landscape. It shows, using various different matching algorithms and visualizations, which parties and candidates are close to their views and which parties and candidates least represent their political profile. In this manner, the VAA will not lead citizens to a single “forced” party or candidate choice but will give each user a nuanced portrayal of their distance from all parties and politicians in the political spectrum. By completing a simple questionnaire, users will obtain a presentation of their policy preferences, which allows them to compare their preferences with the positions of all parties/candidates. The VAA provides multiple options for further analysis of the position of the user. Users can analyse their position in various ways so that they can decide for themselves which party and candidate they find most appropriate. By indicating which issues are important to them and which are less relevant for their party/candidate choice, voters can recalculate their position in the landscape as well as all other results and visualizations.

IV. Media campaign: pending on the assessment of the academic team and advisory board, we will contact media outlets to explore the possibilities to disseminate the Vote Advice Application and provide relevant information to Lithuanian voters. Usually, a VAA is launched roughly several weeks prior to the election date. After the launch, citizens are invited to use the application. VAA’s provides information on the elections to voters in an innovative, unique and comprehensible manner and is easily accessible to a wide range of users. In all countries, we work closely with traditional mass media and start a social media campaign. During this campaign, our tool is integrated into media websites as quality content and as an extra service to their readers.

V. Symposium in Lithuania to present the results. Shortly after the 2019 Lithuanian Presidential and EP elections, we will organise a symposium in Vilnius, where the preliminary results of the analyses of the ManoBalsas.lt (in cooperation with Kieskompas.nl) data will be presented. During the lecture, the current trends and developments in Lithuania politics will be discussed and the tendencies during the 2019 Presidential and EP elections will also be compared to the previous elections to give a more in-depth overview of the overtime developments in the preferences of Lithuanian voters.

Participating institutions

Kieskompas.nl, Institute of International Relations and Political Science (IIRPS) of Vilnius University (Lithuania)