Canada

Vote Compass returns for Ontario election

An enhanced version of Vote Compass, CBC's online election issues survey that proved popular with voters during the federal election, is back in time for Ontario's provincial election on Oct. 6.

Online tool generated more than a million responses during federal election

An enhanced version of Vote Compass, CBC’s online election issues survey that proved popular with voters during the federal election, is back in time for Ontario’s provincial election on Oct. 6.

Returning to CBC.ca, Vote Compass uses an online questionnaire to compare a user’s political views to the platforms of the major political parties.

"If you aren't sure where you stand or whether a party you've long supported shares your view, Vote Compass is a good way to start your investigation," said Peter Loewen, a political science professor at the University of Toronto (Mississauga), who led the team of academics that developed the tool. "It’s a really fun way to engage in politics."

Vote Compass generated some two million responses during this spring's federal election. The version for the Ontario election operates in a similar way, with some new tools to understand your results.

Users anonymously answer 30 questions covering a full spectrum of Ontario issues chosen by the academics, from the role of private industry in health care to whether or not abortions should be more freely available.

For each question or statement there are six responses that range from strong agreement or support for a position to strong disagreement or opposition.

Based on the responses to the questionnaire, Vote Compass plots the user on a grid that offers a visual comparison to the positions of Ontario’s four major political parties. The grid consists of a horizontal axis depicting "economic left versus economic right" and "social liberalism versus social conservatism" on the vertical axis.

A shaded grey area around the dot that represents the user’s position varies in size and shape. Consistent responses will generate a small shaded area, while responses that are more varied will appear as a much wider area. The idea is to show users how ideologically consistent their political views are and how their views are – and how their views can bring them into proximity with one or more parties.

Users can rank party leaders

In a new feature for the Ontario election, Vote Compass will also express — in a percentage — how often the users’ responses agreed with the platforms of each major political party. Users can also rate each party leader.

Loewen said Vote Compass ultimately offers voters a new way to discuss and engage in politics.

"It’s really a democratic engagement tool," he said. "It gives people another metric to understand their relationship with each party. It’s like a portal into the election."

Also added to Vote Compass since May’s federal election is the ability for each user to enhance their results by weighting the importance of each of their 30 responses.

"It allows voters to express, in a more precise way, what they think is important," said Loewen.

The intention of Vote Compass is not to tell voters how to cast their ballot on Oct. 6, Loewen added. Instead, it is aimed at getting people to think about what issues are important to them, and providing voters with the parties’ specific positions on those issues.

With all the mixed messages, angry campaign ads and heated rhetoric that often comes with an election, Loewen said voters often struggle to weigh their views against each party’s policies.

"So much of electioneering ends up being about personalities," said Loewen. "But this allows people to think past the personalities and really examine the policies. Someone said, ‘This helped me and my wife start a discussion about politics.’"

Loewen adds many users are surprised by their Vote Compass results.

Try Vote Compass yourself.