What is the Wahl-O-Mat?
What is the idea of the tool?
Where are the origins of the Wahl-O-Mat?
When did the Wahl-O-Mart start for the first time?
How is a Wahl-O-Mart implemented?
How does the Wahl-O-Mat calculate the results?
What was the motivation to launch this tool? An overall decline in voter turnout in Germany over the course of the last twenty years has initiated an intense discussion about effective ways to motivate citizens to take advantage of their right to vote. Whereas the election turnout on the federal level remains relatively high (at least compared with other European countries), the corresponding numbers on the sub-national level (the 16 states or “Länder” of Germany) seem to be on a downward slope. Young voters especially tend more and more to abstain from voting in elections. The Wahl-O-Mat tries to tackle the arguments that usually bolster the decision not to participate in elections: First, the tool tries to point out the differences between parties on relevant political questions, thereby questioning the widespread perception that it does not matter which party wins the elections since it would not alter the political results. Second, the Wahl-O-Mat wants to mobilise citizenship activities by raising awareness of the relevant political topics of an election campaign as well as initiating debates. Finally, it tries to boil down those political debates, which might appear to many overly complex, diffuse, or tedious, to concrete questions directly understandable and relevant to people, thus getting them interested in politics.
Where are the origins of the Wahl-O-Mat?The Wahl-O-Mat is the German version of the Dutch “StemWijzer” that was develop by the Amsterdam “Instituut voor Publiek en Politiek/IPP”. The “StemWijzer” has become a very popular tool of civic education in the Netherlands. Apart from the Dutch “StemWijzer”, there are other “voting indicators” in several countries. Switzerland started with a tool called “politikarena.ch” in 2003. In 2005, a web based voters’ guideline was established in Bulgaria. The Swiss and the Bulgarian voting indicators are both created on the basics of “StemWijzer”. Similar tools exist in Norway, Great Britain, Belgium and Austria, but they function differently from the “StemWijzer”.
When did the Wahl-O-Mart start for the first time?The first Wahl-O-Mat started in 2002, several weeks before the federal elections. Due to effective marketing, e.g. in a German late night show and in magazines like “Stern” and “Spiegel”, the Wahl-O-Mat became famous right from its first implementation; the 2002 version was played about 3.6 million times. Since its first implementation before the German federal elections in 2002, the Wahl-O-Mat has become one of the most popular and famous online tools in Germany. Its initial success spurred new versions for the federal election 2005, the European Elections 2004, and nearly every election on the sub-national level.
How is a Wahl-O-Mat implemented?
The Wahl-O-Mat versions are produced by the “Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung” (bpb) (Federal Agency for Civic Education), partly in cooperation with other agencies of civic education. About three months before the elections, a group of first- or second- time voters (the “Wahl-O-Mat editorial staff”), all under the age of 27, convene in order to generate the policy propositions or “theses”. Based on the party platforms and other information provided at the time of the first staff meeting, the participants identify relevant issues that might be controversial within the election campaign. Journalists and political scientists advise them in the process, and there are numerous other feedback loops to ensure quality and accuracy.
The propositions must meet several criteria. They should: 1) be easy to understand; 2) address questions relevant to citizens’ lives; and 3) present different party points of view in respect to them. Before launching the tool (approximately five weeks before the election day), parties are asked to position themselves in respect to about 60 to 80 theses, which meet the mentioned criteria and which were agreed upon by the Wahl-O-Mat editorial staff. On the basis of the parties’ responses, a final set of around 30 to 40 propositions is selected. This final selection is guided by, firstly, statistical calculations, ensuring that the theses are able to distinguish appropriately between the Wahl-O-Mat-parties, and secondly, by the question of relevance: What are the vital issues for the voters?
The final list is then turned into an online Wahl-O-Mat, becoming part of the website of the Federal Agency of Civic Education. Download versions for personal computers and mobile phones are also available. In addition, didactical material for schools, colleges, and universities is provided for each version.
How does the Wahl-O-Mat calculate the results?The results are calculated on the basis of the city block method. For every block difference between the party and the user, the party is given one point. The party with the lowest score is the nearest to the user. The difference between “agree” and “don´t agree” is translated into two points. The difference between “agree” or “don´t agree” and “neutral” counts one point. By giving a proposition a special weight, the users can double the score of the respective differences to the parties.
|User: "agree"||User: "neutral"||User: "don't agree"|
|Party: "don't agree"||2||1||0|