The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

The Vote Match Project

Posted by The Futility Monster on April 3, 2010 @ 09:57

As Euronews say, "No Comment"

Every election, websites like Vote Match spring up. They’re a fun way to try to make the election more interesting for those of us who spend most of our time on the web. But for a lot of the people who try them, they don’t like the results. Mine appears on the right…

The problem with people like me is that, occasionally, we aim for a result and try to produce it. In this case, I read the questions carefully, recognising some of them as, say, Tory party policy, and then thinking carefully about what my response should be.

Of course, that’s all the wrong way round. Elections are supposed to be about policies, aren’t they? Naughty Futility Monster.

So I started again, trying to be completely honest, knowing that my pure honesty was probably going to end up with yet another recommendation to vote for the Green Party. At least, that’s what they all told me to do in 2005.

The rest, as they say, is history.

It pleases me that this particular Vote Match is sensible. I was worried that voting for a “10% reduction in the number of MPs” was going to identify me as a Tory, since that is current Tory policy (for now). But no, it was clever. It no doubt boosted my miserable Tory score, but it also realised that the Lib Dems also want to cut Parliament, and gave me points for them too.

But what makes these websites so interesting is that most people get surprises they didn’t expect. Even the dear Iain Dale got a recommendation to vote for UKIP. This clearly disappoints him, and combined with others, and my persistent ranking of Greenness, it got me thinking.

Maybe we aren’t so centrist after all. We’re told that the only way to win an election is in the middle. But stick your average Joe in front of one of these Vote Match thingys and they’ll either do one of two things: 1) answer honestly, with no qualms about political correctness or pretences of equality and fairness; or 2) shrug the shoulders and decide they really don’t have a clue.

The former voter ends up being doctrinaire. Because many of us are at heart. We are fairly principled, and we like to believe we stand up for them. So we’ll consistently say yes to the left wing stuff, and no to the others, except where the waters are muddied. Or vice versa. And then we’ll get a recommendation to either vote for the Greens, UKIP or even the BNP.

That only happens because, like it or not, those three parties are absolutely clear about what they stand for. Unambiguous and unashamed of their policies. Consistent and totally coherent.

Meanwhile, the major parties are more in a muddle, all battling for the same middle ground. A tiny nuance here and there could be the difference between a recommendation to vote Labour or Lib Dem. With that in mind, the principled group of voters tend not to end up with a mainstream party recommendation.

The second grouping, because of their dithering and apathetic attitude, end up getting a really arbitrary result.

Perhaps it is this group that the parties are after in their centre ground battle. They really want to pick up the votes of people who are tuned out from the finer points of policy, and hope that they’ll pay attention for just long enough to be hooked by a slight fragment of the manifesto.

Vote Match is interesting, then, because it illustrates everything that’s wrong with our politics. It shows that the principled amongst us are probably not voting the way we should be, either because we can’t bring ourselves to, are limited by the electoral system, or simply are too set in our ways to change.

And then it flags up that the real battle amongst the “don’t cares” is nothing but a sham to eke out a couple of percent here and there with strands of policies, even if the rest of them may be anathema to a certain member of this apathetic segment.

How depressing.

Or maybe I’ve taken “just a bit of fun” a little too seriously…

One Response to “The Vote Match Project”

  1. Paul Lenz said

    Hi -you might also be interested in – we were the (Hitwise certified) most popular political site in the UK in the run up to the 2005 General Election. We have a similar approach to Votematch, but more usable (we reckon) – 1m people used us last time. Thanks.

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