Take the personalities out of politics

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Take the personalities out of politics

By Matt Chocqueel-Mangan


Paul Albertella under a Creative Commons Licence

People often say ‘we get the government we deserve’ just before an election. People try to encourage others to vote. Or make them feel guilty if they don’t vote.

These people might have good intentions, but I don’t think it’s enough to make people feel guilty for not voting. We need to understand the problem.

It can be difficult to know what each political party represents. The news usually talks about the personalities of the party leaders. And the media is usually on one side so they are not objective. For the election next week in Britain, most information is about who promises to work with who in a coalition – and if we can trust them.

There’s a lot about the personality of the politicians. But in the end the voter loses.

Maybe, on 7 May, only 30 million (of the 53 million) people will vote.

But there is a new services, for example Vote for Policies, to help people understand which political party is closest to their views. In 2005, there were 2 services like this in Britain; this year, there are 7.

More people are using this service – about 2 million in 2010. But more people use them in other European countries like Switzerland, Finland and the Netherlands. Research shows that 30 to 40 per cent of voters in those countries used a voter advice service before voting.

I am not in politics. And I had almost no interest in politics until 5 years ago. So when I set up Vote for Policies before the 2010 general election, it was to help people like me understand politics more. I changed because I read the manifestos (the list of promises from each party).

I read the manifestos because I didn’t know much about what any of the parties want. I did not enjoy reading them, but they helped me see clearly what the parties are promising to do, and how the parties are different. It was also surprising to find out which party I am most similar to. Politics suddenly became interesting.

I am a web producer, so my first reaction was to create something online so that more people could have the same experience –but in minutes, not hours. So I started Vote for Policies. My aim was to make more people vote by helping people make a decision based only on the parties’ policies and plans.

Because of this focus on policies I didn’t want a quiz that asks to you agree or disagree with some statements. I wanted to show people real policies from real manifestos – and not show the party names until the end.

It’s important we understand the policies. This helps because the governments then have to do what they promise. And it works as a way of getting more people to vote. 35 per cent of people (in TNS research) agree they are now more likely to vote in the general election because they did the survey and saw their results.

This is great - not just for Vote for Policies, but for all voter advice services. They are using policies to get more people interested in politics and to encourage them to vote. This really works.

But that’s not the end of the story. It could also change the result of the election.

A fifth (20 per cent) of people said they are now thinking about changing who they vote for. A quarter (25 per cent) of people planning to vote for Labour at the beginning of the survey are thinking about changing. And 20 per cent of UKIP supporters, 18 per cent of Conservatives and 16 per cent of Liberal Democrats are thinking about changing.

Maybe we think personality is important in the politics. But policies are much more important. This is logical - we don’t need to think how much we like the leaders of our political parties until we know what they’re promising to do – so we have to look at the policies first.

If we want a democracy where we can all participate, and people vote for the policies they want, we have a solution right now. Other countries see this, new research here in Britain supports it, and we have the services online already to make it happen.

If we make politics about policies and not personalities, we might get the government – and the democracy – we deserve.

Matt Chocqueel-Mangan started Vote for Policies. More than 600,000 surveys have been done since it started in Feb 2015. Vote for Policies gets people to compare the policies of the main political parties’ policies on topics that are most important to them, without knowing which party they are from. It is the only survey that uses the same words as the parties’ manifestos.

NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: http://newint.org/blog/2015/05/01/voting-personality-politics/ (This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed).