A compass for Québec politics



It is not always easy for voters to know the positions of the various political parties on the issues that are important to them. To find their way, what could be better than a political compass? Université Laval political science professor François Gélineau took part in a project to develop such a tool: "It was a question of informing voters and sparking discussion," he explains.

A team of five researchers took a compass model developed in Europe and used in Canada by a team of political scientists at the University of Toronto, and adapted it to the Québec political context. Socio-economic issues are found on the horizontal axis of the compass (left-to-right), while the question of national identity occupies the vertical axis. Political parties position themselves on the graph, and the researchers ensure that this self-assessment corresponds to the party's platform. In 2011, only the Québec Liberal Party refused to take part in the exercise.

"The Vote Compass sparked a lot of debate. People compared their answers; it's another tool to get them interested in politics."

Users rate a series of 30 propositions relating to ten election issues on a scale ranging from "strongly disagree" to "strongly agree". They can then answer ten optional questions that indicate how important each issue is to them. For example, a voter who shares the Québec Liberal Party position on the development of Northern Québec, but who is a sovereigntist, could accord greater importance to either of these two issues.

Many media, including CBC and Le Devoir, promoted the use of the Vote Compass during the 2012 election, and it could be found on social media such as Facebook. Nearly 550,000 people answered the questionnaire. "The Vote Compass sparked a lot of debate. People compared their answers; it's another tool to get them interested in politics," notes François Gélineau.

The compass also provided an impressive volume of information that has helped to establish the socio-demographic profile of supporters of different political parties. In total, just over 200,000 participants provided this additional information. Due to its success, the experience will be repeated during the next Québec election.