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Election compass: Smartwielen – The Tinder of politics?

Call it the Tinder of politics if you will but Smartwielen 2023 is really having a moment right now.

With the legislative elections just around the corner on 8 October, Luxembourgers, curious to see which party and candidates align with their beliefs, are consulting the tool in their droves.

With close to 200,000 matches to date between users and Luxembourg’s political hopefuls, Smartwielen’s unique selling point is how it simplifies and streamlines the hot button issues for voters.

“It certainly brings people together and that’s a good thing,” Dr Marc Schoentgen, one of the project founders, laughs when asked about the Tinder analogy.

The brainchild of the University of Luxembourg and the Zentrum fir politesch Bildung (Centre for Citizenship Education, ZpB), the questionnaire, available on the website smartwielen.lu, contains 44 pertinent questions addressing issues across the economic, political, health and social spectrum.

These questions were carefully chosen to divide political parties and candidates and to provoke debate, according to Dr Schoentgen.

An information tool

A swift 10-15 minutes is all it takes for users to complete the questionnaire, a deliberate move by the tool founders to distil the issues and avoid question overkill. Lessons were learned from the version used for the 2018 national elections which contained triple the number of questions. Even still, Dr Schoentgen estimates that up to 50,000 people at the time persevered the 30 minutes to complete the survey, testament to its popularity.

Dr Schoentgen emphasises that the resource is an information tool and is not being touted as scientific which explains why users may find themselves matching with parties and candidates very much at odds with their own political stance.

Reaching the expatriate community

With a strategic focus on the expat community, the website is available in English for the first time. This was a deliberate move to promote inclusivity among this growing cohort because even if many don’t have voter rights this time round this could change by 2028 should they obtain citizenship.

“The election leaflets and posters are in Luxembourgish and French and we wanted to reach the expat population knowing that some of them don’t have the right to vote. This is a very important target group because many are interested in what’s happening politically yet it is not easy to get information about parties and candidates in English. It’s important not to exclude people from political discussion. The people living and working here all contribute to society,” explains Dr Schoentgen.

In an effort to cast the net even wider ahead of the European elections next year, he indicates that Portugese is set to be added to the languages available on the site.

Another section of the population the tool is eager to attract into the fold is ‘Generation Y’ and ‘Z’ who often have scant interest in the political process.

“It appeals to younger people. They are not going to be reading the leaflets or listening to debates on the TV or radio. The traditional methods are not engaging to young people.”

Political impact?

Despite its obvious popularity, Dr Schoentgen doesn’t believe users will ultimately be swayed on voting day towards one party or another as a result of their matches.

“I think it will help people to come to their decision or confirm their process and maybe influence them but most people are confident in their decisions on political parties. The results will either confirm or disturb their belief.”

While voter apathy is a fear when elections are approaching, Dr Schoentgen indicates that there will always be a percentage of voters who are keenly interested and a percentage who are not.

With anticipation rising as to which party/ parties will be coming out on top on 8 October, Smartwielen is most certainly not a crystal ball, he adds.

“No it cannot predict the outcome of the election. There is no possibility of seeing what will happen on election day. It is impossible to make a prediction and that is not the aim of it. The aim is to reflect on political questions.”

So as Luxembourgers prepare to go to the polls next Sunday and elect our new government, Smartwielen will certainly have played a helpful role in determining as well as educating on the big election issues.

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