The Independent View: Harnessing the “BuzzFeed” effect to boost turnout in the Euro elections

Only 26% are certain to vote in the European elections, and 77% say they know less about the issues in a European election than a general election, according to the Hansard Society. At Unlock Democracy, we’ve been looking at new techniques to combat low turnout and the worrying lack of political knowledge about European institutions.

For the European elections, we worked with organisations from 14 countries across the EU to produce Vote Match Europe, an online quiz app which matches user to the parties that best represent their views in the European elections, based on the issues which they select as most important.

Click on this image to do the quiz – it opens in another tab so you can return to the rest of this post.

Vote Match taps into the “BuzzFeed effect”, which has seen pop culture and pop psychology quizzes flood the internet, in pursuit of important political goals. Research shows that these quizzes boost turnout, with our feedback survey from 2010 recording that 5% of users decided to vote as a result of using Vote Match. With 1 million users taking the quiz in 2010, that’s 50,000 new voters. When online voter registration is launched later this year, the link between taking the quiz and taking the trip to the ballot box will be even smoother.

In countries like the Netherlands, apps like Vote Match have developed into essential features of the electoral process; the election campaign only kicks off when the parties have filled out their responses for the quiz, and the leading app reaches around 40% of the electorate. In the UK, however, the political establishment has been much less receptive. Political parties elsewhere have seen these apps as an opportunity to sell their policies to voters outside the traditional channels of political communication. Are UK parties missing a trick?

Part of the scepticism is understandable: as one party activist asked me, “why should I be interested in something that might tell people to vote for another party?” Vote Match is clear that it does not tell users who to vote for, and voters make their choice on a range of factors, many of which cannot be represented in a policy-based quiz. But Vote Match does act as a catalyst for finding out more about where the parties stand. If parties are confident that their policies appeal to the electorate, then they have nothing to fear and much to gain from Vote Match.

The Independent View‘ is a slot on Lib Dem Voice which allows those from beyond the party to contribute to debates we believe are of interest to LDV’s readers. Please email [email protected] if you are interested in contributing.

* Pete Mills is Policy and Research Officer of Unlock Democracy

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13 Comments

  • James Hardy 13th May '14 - 3:57pm

    Why do the Lib Dems not have any explanation of the positions. If (on the results page) you click “Explanation” a pop-up appears with a sentence provided by the party e.g. “Labour believe that genetically-modified crops have an important role to play in food security. (http://www.thegrocer.co.uk/topics/labour-review-leaves-door-open-for-gm-foods-in-the-uk/344843.article)” . The Lib Dems appear blank for all policies. It can’t be that hard to write a sentence to justify our position on these matters

  • Hi Pete – this is great and got my opinions correct. I’ll definitely be sharing it. Awesome.

  • Richard Dean 14th May '14 - 2:33am

    Very interesting and helpful, could be developed in many ways, but possibly open to abuse, for example by asking too many questions on an issue, none or few on another. In effect Vote Match can become the organization that defines what an election is about, and I wonder how we might begin to think about making sure it is always does this fairly?

  • After doing the quiz my closest match was the Greens, with the Lib Dems in second, which was a surprise as I have never thought of myself as a Green voter. However it seems that the Liberal Democrats have some “neithers” where I agree with the Green position and some Lib Dem positions surprised me. Why don’t we support Parliament sacking Commissioners? I didn’t think we supported subsidising nuclear power, even if it appears that Ed Davey does.

  • Charles Rothwell 14th May '14 - 6:59am

    I had exactly the same experience as Amalric (i.e. came out as a Green first of all and Lib Dem second – equally a surprise to me!) Still, goes to show what a broad party we are and in such areas as Amalric puts forward (I would also be fully in favour of the EP moving towards gaining much greater powers and making the Commissioners responsible to it would be a key step towards this), the need to promote our views within it.

  • Amalric – I also most closely identified with the Green positions, with Lib Dem and Labour joint second. Having always identified on the Green and radical wings of the Party, it doesn’t entirely surprise me, and I would be interested to see what a similar analysis of policy positions of the Lib Dems 10 years ago would have shown? Perhaps “My party moving away from me, rather than me moving away from my party” is the way to put it.

    I have in the past maintained that much of what I call the rightward move of the Lib Dems occurred between 2001 and 2010, rather than since the Coalition. The earlier part of this movement was rather hidden by the opposition to the Iraq war, and it became a lot more obvious when Charles Kennedy was deposed, and especially when Clegg, from the economic right was elected.

  • @Amalric; @ Charles Rothwell

    I too came out as Green first and Lib Dem second, may be because I prioritized few issues, and these were mainly environmental. The quiz was excellent though … although it lacked anything focused on education, youth employment or science.

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 14th May '14 - 9:22am

    I found that I was not able to have a strong view on many of the questions. Guess LDs are middle of the road on those. I was Liberal Democrat with Green and Labour as equal second, Ukip last. That is actually my position so the quiz confirms my own views.

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 14th May '14 - 12:19pm

    My feed-back tells me that somehow I am still agreeing with the LD who filled in the quiz responses for our party. But it also shows that there are two parties I could follow if the LD position becomes worse – in policy terms – i.e Green or Labour.

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 14th May '14 - 12:38pm

    Putting my answers into the mix I believe that LD leadership needs to take care about the fracking invasions into property rights etc. (Green) and the rights of the individual from wherever they come (Labour). In no way do I want to be associated with Tories but some LDs are obviously right wing LD on this and support Tories – which, if they become a majority, could drive me out with my friends who have already joined Labour. It all depends which way the leader sides – if with Tories I will also quit the party and join another party or not vote again.

  • Matthew Huntbach 16th May '14 - 10:22am


    Only 26% are certain to vote in the European elections, and 77% say they know less about the issues in a European election than a general election, according to the Hansard Society.

    Yes, on the one hand UKIP and the right-wing press play on this idea that the EU is all-powerful and dominating us, and making most of our legislation. On the other hand, most people don’t have a clue what it does.

    If it really were the powerful controlling thing that UKIP and co like to say it is, then wouldn’t we know about it, wouldn’t we know what it does? If the UK Parliament really has been reduced to a talking shop with most decisions now made in Brussels, as UKIP and co like to say, how come discussion on politics in this country is centred on Westminster and not on what happens in Brussels?

    We are told again and again that people want to withdraw from the EU because they believe it is a bad controlling thing. Well, if it was, wouldn’t we know just what it was doing that is bad and controlling? Wouldn’t it be what we would all be talking about? Otherwise, how can we really go on about so many people wanting to be out of the EU when they actually haven’t a clue what that means? It is like asking a question “Which do you prefer sklrpops or twnhthrwdfs?” Having a whole load of talk on the basis most people answer that question with “sklrpops” rather than “twnhthrwdfs” is a bit silly, isn’t it? Yet much discussion on the EU and the need for a referendum on it here is like that.

  • Jayne Mansfield 16th May '14 - 10:40am

    @ Mathew Huntbach.
    Brilliant. There you have it in a nutshell.

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