Yle launched its election compass on 14 March to help voters figure out which candidates’ views align most closely with their own ahead of parliamentary elections due on 14 April. Altogether 2,200 candidates from all of the country’s electoral districts responded to the claims posed in the election compass.
Each candidate addressed 25 claims that were national in scope, while an additional five statements focused on local election district issues. Yle has estimated that the candidate response rate in the election compass was about 90 percent.
How the compass works
Yle’s election compass is essentially a simple algorithm or computer programme that asks candidates and users to answer certain questions. It then compares the responses to find a candidate or candidates whose answers are closest to the responses the user provided.
This means that one of the most important requirements for the election compass is that the statements or claims being answered must be straightforward and unambiguous. This ensures that the candidates and the users understand the claims in the same way.
Both candidates and users are asked to respond to 30 statements in the compass, following which the tool’s algorithm provides a list of the candidates with similar views on the issues raised.
The results page provides a wealth of information, including what Parliament would look like based on the user's choices. Users can also opt to browse through the list of candidates to find out more about them. In the case of sitting MPs, the compass provides information about their work in Parliament.
How the themes were selected
"We've tried to select themes that are known to be important to voters who are most likely to use the election compass. We also know that the compass is especially important to young people and young adults: we're aiming to serve them even better!" said Yle's election web producer Ville Seuri.
As background for the election compass statements, Yle used a previous survey it had conducted on the fears and hopes of Finnish residents. The poll indicated that teens and young adults were worried about climate change. Developers of the tool also consulted youth and political researchers as well as other experts.
The results of the election compass provide users with useful information about themselves. It shows how their answers compare to those of other users and helps them to dig deeper into their own attitudes.
Election compasses popular in Finland
Yle has however, ensured that responses contributed by users are not identifiable, meaning that they cannot be linked to any unique information, such as a computer’s IP address or an Yle login.
Election compasses are nothing new to Finland – they’ve been around for a couple of decades already and many voters rely on them, according Seuri.
Young voters in particular are keen on the service. Research conducted by the Municipal Development Foundation KAKS (in Finnish) into the 2017 municipal elections found that the most important sources of information for under-35-year-olds were social media and the Yle election compass.
Some voters in that study told researcher Sami Borg of Tampere University that they cast their ballots on the basis of recommendations generated by the service.