The Wahl-O-Mat presents its users with 38 theses from various subject areas on which they can take a position from "agree," "neutral" to"disagree". The Wahl-O-Mat compares these positions with those of the parties registered for election. The closeness to the individual parties is determined from deviations and matches and thus displayed. A separate Wahl-O-Mat is developed for each election, which is posted on the Internet a few weeks before the polls open. The copyright is held by the Federal Agency for Civic Education.
In addition to providing information about the essential and distinguishable contents of the parties, the Wahl-O-Mat serves as an instrument for promoting political communication. Follow-up communication as an exchange (also especially in social groups such as school, family, workplace) can contribute to the formation of political opinion before elections. But far beyond the specific election ballot, the aim is to promote engagement with politics. The aroused interest in the content ideally provides a basis for the acquisition of individual points of view.
In the Netherlands, the Instituut voor Publiek en Politiek (IPP) in Amsterdam developed the "StemWijzer" in 1985 as a tool for political education. Initially as a paper version, later in digital form on floppy disks and since 1998 on the Internet, it functions like the Wahl-O-Mat and is posted online in the run-up to various elections. Before the 2017 second chamber elections alone, it was played about 7 million times. Given a population of 17.2 million people in the Netherlands, this is an outstanding figure.
Apart from the probably most successful "VAA" (Voting Advice Application) StemWijzer in the Netherlands (see Where-in roots the Wahl-O-Mat?), comparable projects can now also be found in many other countries. In Europe, VAAs have become established in almost all countries - sometimes there are even several tools for one country (e.g. in the Netherlands or Germany). There are now also various tools regularly offered for transnational elections in Europe. In addition, there are tools for countries in North and South America as well as in Africa (especially in the course of the Arab Spring) and a few Asian countries. A country overview of the existing Voting Advice Applications can be found in the "Apart from the probably most successful "VAA" (Voting Advice Application) StemWijzer in the Netherlands (see Where-in roots the Wahl-O-Mat?), comparable projects can now also be found in many other countries. In Europe, VAAs have become established in almost all countries - sometimes there are even several tools for one country (e.g. in the Netherlands or Germany). There are now also various tools regularly offered for transnational elections in Europe. In addition, there are tools for countries in North and South America as well as in Africa (especially in the course of the Arab Spring) and a few Asian countries. A country overview of the existing Voting Advice Applications can be found in the "Links" section.
Party-political neutrality is the top priority. The Federal Agency for Civic Education (responsible for the Wahl-O-Mat) fulfills a state educational mandate, compliance with which is guaranteed by a scientific advisory board. In addition, the Federal Agency for Civic Education does not pursue any financial interests. The Wahl-O-Mat is created in cooperation with public institutions (state youth councils and state centers for political education) and is continuously monitored by scientists. This explicitly includes the close monitoring of non-intended distorting effects. The independence of Wahl-O-Mat (both in terms of content and design), including from economic interests, is safeguarded.
The theses are examined for their relevance and developed on the basis of existing election programs. Before the parties' positions are fed into the Wahl-O-Mat, they have been authorized by the respective party executive boards/managing directors. Only if the positions are distinguishable is the thesis suitable for inclusion in the Wahl-O-Mat.
A group of about 10-25 young people, most of whom are still in school, training or studying. Among them are politically interested first-time voters. With the participation of a Wahl-O-Mat team of political scientists, educators, statisticians, organizers, IT experts and journalists, theses are developed on the basis of existing election programs. The weekend workshop takes place in the respective federal state and brings together all participants - usually in person. Due to the Corona pandemic, the participants met online for the first time in 2020 to develop the tool for the state elections in Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate.
In a first step, the editorial group draws up around 100 theses, which are reduced to a longlist of around 80 theses according to criteria such as unambiguity, political relevance, balance between the parties, precision and comprehensibility. After the parties have taken a position, the theses are examined for sufficient distinctness using a statistical procedure, which results in the elimination of further theses. Finally, 38 theses (evenly distributed across topic areas) are selected and placed in a meaningful order.
Yes and No. The first approach is often a playful one, which can then lead to a serious debate in a second step. Enabling this is taken into account in the content and design of the offer and stimulated by the possibility to compare between the positions of the users and the parties. To focus on the essentials, a user-friendly and easy-to-use interface (without graphical and content distractions) is essential. Even if an overwhelming number of Wahl-O-Mat users state that they enjoyed using the application, this does not mean that lower standards of transparency or seriousness are acceptable.
In a defined sequential order, the user is confronted with the theses, which he or she answers with "agree," "neutral," or "disagree. There is also the option of skipping theses. Before the Wahl-O-Mat displays the results, individual theses can be marked for double weighting with a mouse click and then the competing parties can be selected. On the one hand, this can be done for each party individually, at the user's discretion. On the other hand, the parties represented in parliament or even all parties running for election can be selected simultaneously - with one click. After a list of parties is displayed in the order of proximity to one's own positions, the agreement or disagreement with the parties on each point can be checked. An info button can be used to call up further information on the topics, it is possible to view the parties' justifications for their positions and, since 2020, it has also been possible to make subsequent changes to the weightings and positions and to compare the parties' positions on individual theses. Users can thus see what influence a possible change has on their result.
For each deviation between the party and the user's position, the respective party receives one point. The party with the fewest points is closest to the user's position with regard to the theses queried, while the party with the most points is furthest away. For the difference between "agree" and "disagree" the party receives two points. If the rating "neutral" occurs on the side of the user or the party, only one point is awarded - unless both sides agree "neutral", in which case the party does not receive a malus in the form of points, just as in the case of other agreement. In the case of theses that are particularly weighted by the user, the points are doubled up to a maximum of four per thesis.
The parties are displayed in order from the lowest to the highest score. The party with the highest score is furthest away from the user's views. In addition to the order, the Wahl-O-Mat also uses a bar chart to show the degree of agreement with the respective parties. A detailed comparison allows insight into the issues on which the differences with the parties arose.