Peter Loewen, an assistant professor of political science at UTM, has been working as the director of analytics on the provincial elections for Vote Compass Canada. The CBC’s Vote Compass—the brainchild of Clifton van der Linden, a U of T graduate student and PhD candidate—is a tool for individuals wanting to find the party that best suits their own set of values.
Van der Linden approached Loewen to get involved in the project that has attracted over a million followers during the 2011 federal election.
“I think many people are looking for a way to start a conversation about politics, but perhaps lack a common language to do so,” said Loewen. “Vote Compass helps with this, and I think that explains a lot of its popularity.”
The panel of academics behind the questionnaire tried to analyze how left- or right-wing the population really is, based on how much an individual’s social attitudes and ideology correspond with a particular political party or candidate.
“Vote Compass is not designed to be a poll. Our main interest in the data is in furthering our understanding of what influences vote choice and political preferences,” said Loewen about the details of the empirical basis of his research.
“So, we plan to use these data to scientifically understand these elections in particular and the elections more generally.”
“I think it’s always useful for the public to have a healthy scepticism, and we certainly appreciate that people gave Vote Compass a good, hard look,” said Loewen. “There is more than one way to measure proximity to political parties, so one thing we’ve done in response to the criticism we received last time was to present a second metric: the percentage of times a voter agrees with each party. We hope this additional information makes the tool more attractive to our users and potential users.”