McBLOG: TVNZ’s ‘Vote Compass’ & its bias

TVNZ has just launched its voting tool to help you see which political party you may align with. But rather than being a sharp tool to help you, it has a blunt bias which hides socially conservative-leaning minor parties, but elevates others that it prefers. What’s most disturbing is that the Electoral Commission has endorsed it.


You may have heard of Vote Compass. It’s an interesting tool to see which political party you may align with, but as with most things coming from academia and media, the devil is in the detail – and Vote Compass has a glaring fault.

So Vote Compass was launched over the weekend

According to 1News,

Vote Compass has been built as a partnership between TVNZ, New Zealand political scientists, and data science company Vox Pop Labs. It’s backed by the Electoral Commission as a way of driving voter engagement and is delivered in association with the University of Auckland and Victoria University. Results from the online poll also serve as a way to gauge the public’s insights on hot topics, as they are tabulated by researchers every few days.

Vote Compass was first created and managed by Canadian political scientists as a non-profit initiative, designed to help voters decide who to vote for.

But does it? And does it do it fairly and honestly?

Well, couple of things

Firstly, you can complete the survey as many times as you like – which is immediately a problem for good data collection.

You get to choose to agree or disagree with 30 statements about issues like health, education, the environment, and tax. So there’s questions about welfare payments, changing NZ to Aotearoa, public transport, immigration, urban housing development, funding for universities, taxing the wealthy, hate speech, gst on fruits & vegetables,

And then this one

People who identify as women but were assigned male at birth should be allowed to compete in women’s sports leagues.

I had to read it a couple of times to get my head around it. What it should have simply asked was “should biological men be able to play in women’s sports”

Then a question on legalising cannabis (yes – they don’t give up do they).

But here’s the really really interesting bit. There’s NO questions on euthanasia or abortion. Why is that? If we’re asking about legalising weed, why not similar controversial issues. Well, it’s because they think they’ve won those debates. Extreme abortion law. Dangerous euthanasia law. Let’s not give oxygen to possible objections and opposition eh.

But legalising cannabis is definitely still in their sites – and will be law within 6 months if Labour & Greens form the next government. Mark my words.

Then questions on Maori and Pasifika health outcomes, education assessments, free lunches in schools, oil and gas exploration, prison sentences & youth crime, the Treaty of Waitangi, environmental issues, etc

And then it asks – which party are you likely to vote for

And here’s where the big big problem is. And you can see that from the way 1News has promoted it

Now you probably recognised everyone. All the major parties and Winston Peters whose party is polling around an average of the pass mark of 5%. But who’s this??

Do you know? Some of you will.

It’s the leader of The Opportunities Party – TOP. Raj Manji.

So in Vote Compass you’re asked how likely it is you will vote for those 6 major parties and also for TOP – and then you’re shown a face of each leader, faces you’ll all recognise – including this one

But none of these other minor party ones.

Hmmm. Now when I tweeted about this issue and asked 1News for their response – of course they ducked for cover – but a response came back from one person saying, well, TOP is polling better than those other parties.

There’s only one problem. That’s not true. In fact, in a recent 1News Kantar from mid August, Freedoms NZ were actually polling higher than TOP.

But when you look at the poll of polls, TOP doesn’t feature. But the media are working hard to get TOP over the line. In fact, it seems that even 1News are campaigning for them through this voting tool.

Disturbingly the tool is backed by the Electoral Commission. If I was a minor party, I’d be speaking to my lawyers right now.

In the FAQ’s on the website, it says

Why don’t all of the registered political parties appear in Vote Compass?

It says that by default, parties in Parliament are included. Fair enough. And then it says:

If a political party does not satisfy this first condition, it may also be included if it meets all of the following conditions: a) it is registered under the jurisdiction’s elections commission; b) it fields candidates in a majority of ridings; c) it has a fully developed platform; and d) it participates, where necessary, in the consultative process undertaken to determine its positions on the issues reflected in Vote Compass.

I checked TOP’s website. They have 13 candidates. New Conservative 12. Vision NZ 25. New Zeal 6 so far.

Democracy NZ 13.

So that candidate numbers argument doesn’t work.

Once you answer all the questions, you get shown which parties you might align with. Guess what – TOP is an option. Guess what – all the other minor parties (did I mention they’re all social conservative leaning parties) aren’t in the list.

Watch the rest of this video clip from the news featuring the academics running this tool. Check out who scores best in the shot near the end

Yeah. It’s not even subtle, is it.

That’s why you should stay clear of this tool. It is not a compass that’s that sharp. It’s a blunt instrument pushing a certain bias, sadly.

Oh – by the way, at the end you have to answer this question.

Let’s all tick the box that says “I don’t understand the question”

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