Mirror me : the effect of the voting advice application smartvote on voting preferences and behavior of Swiss voters


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PhD thesis: a PhD thesis.
Mirror me : the effect of the voting advice application smartvote on voting preferences and behavior of Swiss voters
Pianzola J.
Ladner  A.
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Université de Lausanne, Faculté des hautes études commerciales
Faculté des hautes études commerciales (HEC) Université de Lausanne UNIL - Dorigny Internef - bureau 317 CH-1015 Lausanne SUISSE
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Voting Advice Applications (VAAs) have become a central component of election campaigns worldwide. Through matching political preferences of voters to parties and candidates, the web application grants voters a look into their political mirror and reveals the most suitable political choices to them in terms of policy congruence. Both the dense and concise information on the electoral offer and the comparative nature of the application make VAAs an unprecedented information source for electoral decision making. In times where electoral choices are found to be highly individualized and driven by political issue positions, an ever increasing number of voters turn to VAAs before casting their ballots. With VAAs in high demand, the question of their effects on voters has become a pressing research topic. In various countries, survey research has been used to proclaim an impact of VAAs on electoral behavior, yet practically all studies fail to provide the scientific evidence that would allow for making such claims. In this thesis, I set out to systematically establish the causal link between VAA use and electoral behavior, using various data sources and appropriate statistical techniques in doing so.
The focus lies on the Swiss VAA smartvote, introduced in the forefront of the 2003 Swiss federal elections and meanwhile an integral part of the national election campaign, smartvote has produced over a million voting recommendations in the last Swiss federal elections to an active electorate of two million, potentially guiding a vast amount of voters in their choices on the ballot. In order to determine the effect of the VAA on electoral behavior, I analyze both voting preferences and choice among Swiss voters during two consecutive election periods. First, I introduce statistical techniques to adequately examine VAA effects in observational studies and use them to demonstrate that voters who used smartvote prior to the 2007 Swiss federal elections were significantly more likely to swing vote in the elections than non- users. Second, I analyze preference voting during the same election and show that the smartvote voting recommendation inclines politically knowledgeable voters to modify their ballots and cast candidate specific preference votes. Third, to further tackle the indication that smartvote use affects the preference structure of voters, I employ an experimental research design to demonstrate that voters who use the application tend to strengthen their vote propensities for their most preferred party and adapt their overall party preferences in a way that they consider more than one party as eligible vote options after engaging with the application. Finally, vote choice is examined for the 2011 Swiss federal election, showing once more that the VAA initiated a change of party choice among voters. In sum, this thesis presents empirical evidence for the transformative effect of the Swiss VAA smartvote on the electoral behavior.
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18/11/2013 13:36
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20/08/2019 15:56
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