Swiss website finds perfect political partner

Smartvote hopes to encourage younger voters swissinfo.ch

A new website has been designed to help voters find their perfect political partner in October’s general election.

This content was published on October 16, 2003 - 20:36

Smartvote is the brainchild of a team of Swiss web designers, political scientists and economists.

The Internet platform, which was launched two months ago, allows users to match their own political views with candidates standing for election.

Andreas Ladner, a political scientist at the University of Bern, thinks the website is a fascinating new way of choosing a candidate in Switzerland’s general election.

“I am certain the Internet and other new media will play an important role in elections in future,” Ladner told swissinfo.

Questionnaire deluxe

Voters visiting the website can choose between the rapid version of a questionnaire, which involves 24 questions, and the ‘Questionnaire Deluxe’, which leaves them with 70 questions to answer.

Depending on the version it takes between five and 15 minutes to answer the questions on health care, retirement age and other topics dominating this year’s election campaign.

The system then compares the answers with the responses of the contenders registered with smartvote and compiles a list of candidates who best match the visitor’s political views.

Personal details

Once the candidates have put their own profiles on the site, the smarvote team checks their details to make sure the person registered is an official candidate.

“After registering they [the candidates] receive a password by post. We have to avoid that somebody could register pretending to be a politician,” said Jan Fivaz, who helped design the website.

However, Ladner thinks the website could still be improved and having to answer too many questions could put people off.

“The system is a bit complicated. Even the short version consists of too many questions and not everybody is prepared to answer 70 questions,” he said.

Low turnout

In the 1999 general election just 26 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds went to the polls and Ladner blames Switzerland’s system of direct democracy for the low turnout.

“In Switzerland we’re not only going to the polls every four years…we are constantly going to the polls. But that’s not what democracy is all about and I don’t think we will bring all the people back to the polls,” he told swissinfo.

Smartvote also offers virtual elections, which the organisers say is a precise simulation of the general elections.

So far, the website offers profiles of nearly 1,500 of the 2,835 candidates standing for election.

Even though visitors to the website have the opportunity to find their favourite candidate as well as get more information on the general election, experts do not think smartvote will attract people with no interest in politics whatsoever.

“The people who are visiting this website are people who are already interested in politics. But in future it might bring younger people back to politics,” Ladner told swissinfo.

swissinfo, Billi Bierling

Key facts

Smartvote is a project of MySign, an Aarau-based advertising agency, and a team of political scientists.
So far nearly 1,500 of the 2,835 candidates have signed up with the website.
Parliamentary elections take place every four years and are usually held on the penultimate Sunday in October.

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