For those who haven’t decided yet on their favourite party for the elections in the European Union, 4-7 June 2009, a new interactive web feature, the EU-profiler, helps to make up your mind. The tool promises support in discovering the political landscape for the upcoming elections in Europe. However, its functionality and clickability are not free of hitches.
The EU-profiler compiles around 30 political theses ranging from social and fiscal policies to questions concerning society, internal and external affairs. These theses are connected with the political viewpoints of numerous political parties from all 27 EU-member states. By answering to a random selection of the assumptions, the user positions himself within the political landscape. Additionally, he or she can indicate his or her affinity towards political themes and political parties, which gives further weight to particular answers or positions.
After the long clicking and ticking process, the EU-profiler is thought to provide an idea of the user’s individual political orientation and the respective match concerning a political party preference. Of course, the results compare more to an interpretation than a deep analysis. And it is obvious that a cross-country analysis can only bring approximate, no definitive results. However, the statistical and analytical steps leading towards the results as well as the interpretation of them bear some inconsistencies and provoke some question marks.
First of all, the selection of parties under examination appears to a certain extent randomly chosen. Next to the “common six” – meaning all six parties represented in the parliament of Germany (Bundestag) – the EU-profiler examines also the Newropeans (a pan-european politcal movement), Free Voters (Freie Wähler, a Bavaria based political registered association) as well as the two competing nationalist parties German People’s Union (Deutsche Volksunion, DVU) and The Republicans (Die Republikaner, REP). The 22 remaining parties, which are officially registered and admitted for the elections, find no reflection in the analytical comparison. This selection appears odd. Limiting the cases under examination is certainly a necessary step to keep the analysis manageable, but the selection criteria should follow a consistent pattern. The FAQ explains that “every significant party is featured in the EU Profiler“ meaning parties that „are polling to win seat this time around“. The latest polls, however, see none of the four smaller parties even close to win a single seat.
A second flaw in the analytical set-up is the fact, that some parties have only partly answered the list of theses, which were composed in an joint effort of seven European institutes under the lead of the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies. Hence, theoretically, a 100 per cent match can be based on one single assumption, which both the party and the user have answered in the same way. Furthermore, some theses appear out of the context of the national environment in the run up to the elections. In our test-runs we were asked to express our opinion about the Greek health system, a theme which seems only loosely connected with the German electoral campaign for the elections in the European Union. This is not to deny that the EU-profiler represents a massive collection of data on the standpoints of political parties in all EU-member states. Also,the intention to provide an overview over the arguably largest political landscape in the world is very honourable.