App powered by McMaster researchers to help UK electorate make informed voting decisions

A hand putting a folded piece of paper into a ballot box

McMaster University researchers are the driving force behind a tool helping UK voters understand how their views align with the policies of major political parties ahead of the upcoming general election.

Vote Compass UK went live on June 24. The online tool helps people make sense of the political landscape by revealing how their individual views compare with the policies of the various parties running for election.

“Our research team has poured through the policies, promises, and voting records of the major parties running in each of England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland to determine how they are positioned on the same questions we put to Vote Compass users,” explains Joanna Massie, PhD candidate in the department of Political Science and one of the project leads.

“The ground research we’re doing helps ordinary voters parse the spin and rhetoric of election campaigns and get factual information about a broad range of policy issues in an accessible format that demonstrably improves voter engagement.”

While this is the first time it will be featured in the UK, Vote Compass has been used by tens of millions of people across more than 50 elections worldwide. It was developed by Clifton van der Linden, associate professor in the department of Political Science, and is operated by Vox Pop Labs, a social enterprise he founded in 2010.

Both van der Linden and Massie are members of McMaster’s Digital Society Lab, an interdisciplinary research centre that examines the societal implications of digital technologies. Anwar Sheluchin, another member of the lab and a doctoral student in the Department of Political Science, was also a core contributor to the project.

“When I first launched Vote Compass nearly 15 years ago, I remember thinking that as information about public policy became more readily accessible online, we wouldn’t need tools like it anymore,” says van der Linden.

“But the deluge of misinformation in present day electoral politics makes tools like Vote Compass more vital than ever in terms of supporting democratic citizenship.”

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