Party preferences in the digital age : the impact of voting advice applications
Title: Party preferences in the digital age : the impact of voting advice applications
Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd
Citation: Party politics, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 2 SI, pp. 227-236
ISSN: 1354-0688; 1460-3683
Election campaigns in modern democracies are increasingly affected by the rise of Internet-based information and communication technologies. Here, one of the most significant developments concerns the rapidly spreading voting advice applications' (VAAs). VAAs help online users to find their parties by matching a series of party positions with the positions taken up by the users themselves. This article analyses whether such tailor-made campaign information affects the party preferences of voters. It hypothesizes that the impact of the VAA-produced information is dependent on the representative deficit', a concept which captures the part of political preferences of a user that are not reflected by any party in the political system. The empirical analysis is conducted using a dataset stemming from users of the EU Profiler', a VAA produced for the 2009 European Parliamentary elections campaign. We find that less than one out of five users matches best with her initially preferred party. While a large majority of those users who are advised to vote for a better-fitting party are hardly affected by the VAA output, 8 percent of these do change their first preference to the party proposed by the VAA. Switching party preferences can be explained by the size of the representative deficit: the higher the deficit, the lower the probability that the initial party preference will be changed. This finding shows that users of VAAs are responsive to the match calculated by the online tool. They do not blindly follow the personalized suggestions but do so only when they are shown convincing levels of overlap between their views and the best-ranked party's positions.
Subject: election campaigns; Internet; party preferences; representation; voting advice applications
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