By Sarah Rich, Government Technology Staff Writer
Not sure who to vote for in the upcoming 2012 presidential election? There's now an app to help the undecided.
As President Barack Obama begins campaigning for a second term against presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney, the new Web application may help uncertain voters determine which most strongly aligns with their own political views. The free online application, called iElect, was developed by iShapePolicy through the use of a match algorithm – it generates user-candidate compatibility based on a series of questions the user answers.
“We’re trying to create an engaging way for people to – in a nonpartisan way – look at vetted candidates, discover and explore different issues that are most important to them and then plug that into a match algorithm that provides those match results,” said Brendan Watson, co-founder of iShapePolicy.
Similar to the technology and structure of online dating, iElect has users set up private profiles and answer questions related to personal beliefs on government issues. They are then directed to a page displaying 15 government topics including immigration, debt, health care, tax reform and gay rights. For each topic, the user can answer questions to determine the range of his or her opinion on the issue, but users are not required to answer every question. Many of the topics may ask if you agree, disagree or have no position on the issue.
Once a user has answered as many questions as he or she wishes, the results are displayed on the “My Matches” page, which ranks – from highest to lowest – the candidate with which the user has the most compatibility. For the most accurate results, users are urged to answer as many of the questions as possible, Watson said.
In creating the app, he said, iShapePolicy used multiples areas of research to gather information on the candidates: their official campaign websites that include their personal stances on numerous government issues, data on legislation that candidates have voted on in the past and opinions candidates revealed during debates.
To ensure a nonpartisan effort, iShapePolicy has an advisory board consisting of members from private sector, higher education and government.
What is now solely a Web app dedicated to the presidential election may soon expand to include the 11 upcoming gubernatorial races, as well as some federal elections dealing with the Senate and the House of Representatives. Further down the road, the organization hopes to incorporate elections down to the municipal level to help users vote for the candidates in their backyard. iShapePolicy also is researching efforts to develop the app so it can be supported on mobile devices.