People coming to CBCNews.ca have embraced a new tool, Vote Compass, to examine where they might lie on the political spectrum and to discover where the parties stand on key issues.

Within hours of its launch Saturday 25,000 people had taken part in the survey — but as of 1 p.m. ET, on Sunday, the number had shot up to more than 160,000.

Developed by a team of 15 top Canadian election researchers and political science scholars, and co-ordinated by the University of Toronto, the survey uses a series of questions to take each person's political temperature.

The first section involves answering 30 questions on probing issues, and marking on a scale from strongly agree to strongly disagree. The issues include:

  • Should Canada increase its military presence in the Arctic.
  • Should Canada adopt a carbon tax.
  • How much should be done to accommodate religious minorities in Canada.
  • Should the government make it easier for a woman to get an abortion.
  • Should Quebec be formally recognized as a nation in the Constitution.

Vote Compass:

Whose views are most like yours?

Clifton van der Linden, the executive director of Vote Compass, says the 30 statements were carefully crafted by the team over a couple of months. The system has been used in Europe for a decade.

"We did a content analysis, we analyzed the media and the public policy positions of all the parties and the government votes. Then we tried to get a sense of public discourse from the last election in 2008."

'Stimulate discussion'

After that, the group had to "punch down" from a massive list of issues using a research team from the University of Toronto and sending out a condensed list of statements to the five political parties so they could send back their own self-assessments.

"We narrowed this down to 30 issues," van der Linden said, adding that they were "the ones that we saw the greatest dispersion."

Each participant is also asked to rate the trustworthiness of each of the party leaders and how likely they are to vote for each of the five main parties.

At the conclusion, the participant is given insights, based on their answers, as to which party they are closest and which one they are politically farthest from.

The purpose of Vote Compass, according to van der Linden, is to "stimulate discussion."

"We're not telling people how to vote. We just want them to talk to each other about issues in an election that has been branded 'uninteresting," said van der Linden, a PhD candidate in political science at the University of Toronto.

"We would like to make the issues more salient and hopefully, make this a broad-issue election."